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West Bengal Medical Council dissolved for illicit extension of term: Calcutta High Court orders fresh elections

Written by Vidisha Mathur

In Dr. Kunal Shah v West Bengal Medical Council, Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya of the Calcutta High Court ordered the dissolution of the West Bengal Medical Council for carrying on without conducting elections.

Petitioner, Kunal Shah, appearing in person, contended that the Five-year term of the existing council expired in 2018 and no elections have been held since then.

Respondent, represented by advocates Saibalendu Bhowmik, Biplab Guha, Rajsekhar Basu, and Subrata Bhattacharya – held that elections were notified in 2018 but were not carried out owing to an interlocutory order passed in another petition. It was also claimed that the Department of Health and Family Welfare had opined that the existing council may continue until the election of a new council.

The council opposed the maintainability of the case on the ground that the petitioner was not a citizen or resident of India and could not petition for the invocation of fundamental rights under Article 226.

The Court observed that the interlocutory order in question – was not extended beyond November 2018. It was also noted that the tenure of the last elected council ended in 1988, and no election has been held in the 34 years since then. The council, in the words of the judge – “chose to hibernate in the stupor of the protracted perpetuation of power.”

The opinion of the Department of Health and Welfare was considered non-binding and irrelevant.

The Court upheld the maintainability of the case – because the petitioner is registered as an Overseas Indian Citizen (OIC) and is an aggrieved party, and the case invoked fundamental rights under Article 14 and Article 19. It was noted that the petition was in the public interest as it affected the health and well-being of the citizens and unlawful practice in this regard could ill-effect the medical practice.

In the interim, the court has ordered the appointment of an ad-hoc council by the state for the limited purpose of conducting fair and transparent elections and carrying out essential functions of the council until then.

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