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I’ll continue to serve AIIMS, says Venugopal

AFTER THE RULINg: Dr. Venugopal resumes office as AIIMS Director soon after the Supreme Court verdict on Thursday. (Below): Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Anbumani Ramadoss addresses reporters in New Delhi.

AFTER THE RULINg: Dr. Venugopal resumes office as AIIMS Director soon after the Supreme Court verdict on Thursday. (Below): Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Anbumani Ramadoss addresses reporters in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: — Photos: V. Sudershan, S. Subramanium

Aarti Dhar

Anbumani: Where is the case of misleading government when we have passed the law in Parliament?

NEW DELHI: Eminent cardio-thoracic surgeon P.Venugopal, who stepped down as Director of the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in November last following an amendment to the AIIMS Act, assumed office on Thursday, hours after the Supreme Court struck down the legislation describing it as unconstitutional. He was accompanied by the institute’s resident doctors and faculty members.

Dr. Venugopal, in a statement, said he would continue to serve the institute.

Talking to reporters almost at the same time, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said the court ruling was not a setback and the Ministry would decide on further course of action after studying the judgment.

Rejecting the Bharatiya Janata Party’s demand for his resignation, Dr. Ramadoss said this was a decision of the government passed by Parliament.

The government would decide on the future course of action after going through the judgment. “We are yet to receive the details of judgment of the court. Once we receive the details, we will study it and take a decision accordingly,” he said.

“Government not misled”

Rejecting the allegation that he “misled” the government, Dr. Ramadoss said it was a Bill passed by Parliament based on a government decision. “Where is the case of misleading the government when we have passed it in Parliament.”

After assuming office, Dr. Venugopal, in a statement, said he had always served the institute and would continue to do so for the time given to him. “I thank all right-minded people who are concerned with the well-being and further advancement of the AIIMS in serving the masses of this country,” he said. A senior physician read out his statement

Dr. Venugopal was appointed the AIIMS Director on July 3, 2003, and his term ends in July.

War of words

Dr. Ramadoss and Dr. Venugopal were involved in a bitter war of words since 2006, after the latter alleged that the former interfered in the functioning of the institute. Dr. Ramadoss accused the Director of mismanagement.

The situation worsened after the AIIMS became a hot-bed of agitation against the 27 per cent reservation for the Other Backward Classes in higher educational institutions.

A committee, headed by the University Grants Commission chairman Sukhdeo Thorat, held Dr. Venugopal guilty of playing a proactive role in the anti-quota agitation.

Subsequently, the Institute Body of AIIMS – chaired by Dr. Ramadoss in his capacity as AIIMS president – recommended the removal of Dr. Venugopal, which was challenged and stayed by the Delhi High Court.

The government moved the Supreme Court and simultaneously passed the AIIMS (Amendment) Act, 2007 that fixed the upper age of retirement of the Director at 65 years, forcing Dr. Venugopal to relinquish office.

“Hard-fought victory”

Celebrating what they called “a hard-fought victory,” AIIMS Faculty Association president Binod Khaitan said: “We are, of course happy, with the return of Dr. Venugopal and demand that Dr. Ramadoss resign on moral grounds. The Minister has tried to destroy the autonomy of a prestigious medical institute.”

Stating that “this was not a personal fight,” Dr. Khaitan said Dr. Venugopal had become a symbol of the autonomy of the institute.

AIIMS Resident Doctors Association president Kumar Harsh said: “We will celebrate this day as Diwali. It is a big victory for the institute.”

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