Will AIIMS stand by senior lady faculty victim of alleged harassment after CAT observation?

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The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has held the view that the probation period extended by AIIMS to a doctor on the ground of ‘alleged misconduct’ with the Head of Department “suffers from various serious lacunae” and has ‘quashed’ the orders of the hospital. Due to this ‘serious lacunae’ in AIIMS’ orders, a senior lady doctor and HoD -who has been victim of alleged misconduct – is still waiting for her turn to get her grievances be addressed and justice be delivered on her parts.   

In the case of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) vs Dr. Ranjan Gupta, Assistant professor, Dept of Rheumatology, the CAT has said the orders were issued “without the approval of the appointing authority (Governing Body); its ratification had been obtained more than five years after the issue of the said order”. “Since the Governing Body is the Appointing Authority in AIIMS, which comprises 25 Members, it obviously gives rise to various administrative problems as is evident in this case”, the court observed. The tribunal said further, “…the orders had been issued without putting up the file back to the President. Further, as stated above, this extension actually required the approval by the Governing Body and that approval has been taken after more than five years, i.e., in their meeting held on 13.12.2023, which is not sustainable in law”.  

Dr Ranjan Gupta was appointed as Assistant Professor on direct recruitment basis on Nov 2, 2016 in AIIMS and he joined the hospital the next day on November 3. He was to be on probation for a period of two years initially. But due to alleged misconduct at the workplace with his senior and Head of Department Dr Uma Kumar, his probation was extended for a further period of two years. The AIIMS had extended the probation period of Dr Gupta for a further period of two years, alleging misconduct by an order dated Nov 20, 2018. Dr Gupta allegedly misbehaved with his HoD Dr Uma Kumar during probation period.

In view of several complaints against Dr Gupta, AIIMS constituted a committee under the Chairmanship of Dr. Chitra Sarkar, Professor of Pathology and Dean (Research), AIIMS, which decided that behavior and conduct of Dr. Ranjan Gupta was unbecoming of a faculty member of AIIMS and submitted a report on May 21, 2019 to President, AIIMS who is also Chairman-Governing Body with recommendation to extend his probation period by 1 year. The President, AIIMS and Chairman Governing Body decided to increase the probation period of Dr. Gupta by 2 years after due deliberation keeping in view the gravity of misconduct on August 2, 2019.

The court in its order has held the view “……That the impugned order dated 20.11.2018 extending the probation period of the applicant by further two years suffers from various serious lacunae as it had been issued without the approval of the appointing authority (Governing Body); its ratification had been obtained more than five years after the issue of the said order that too after the filing of the present OA; there is no provision in the rules for ‘Ratification’; the order does not even mention the date upto which the probation has been extended; since the appointment letter is dated 03.11.2016 and the probation was for two years, which expired on 02.11.2018, the extension should have been ordered before that date, and the gap from 02.11.2018 to 20.11.2018 should have been explained”.

Raising questions over the delay of over five years in ratification after the issuance of order, the CAT has said, “it clearly shows that the impugned order had been issued without the approval of the appointing authority”. The CAT observed “normally in service matters approval of the competent authority is taken before issuing an order”. The tribunal also observed this order is silent about the date till which it has been extended. “Since two-year period was already over by 02.11.2018, the extension should have been done before expiry of the initial two years. However, it has been issued on 20.11.2018 without mentioning anything about the period from 03.11.2018 to 20.11.2018. Moreover, the order does not even mention the date till which the probation has been extended. Hence, we feel that the impugned order suffers from several lacunae..” the court observed.

The AIIMS action against the complaint of misbehaviour with a senior lady doctor at workplace seems to be an eyewash as no concrete step was taken to address the allegations. The court has also highlighted the gap of over five years which is the most shocking for a premier health organisation like AIIMS. Due to the delay in administrative exercise by AIIMS and their failure to deal with workplace harassment of a woman doctor, Dr Uma Kumar is still waiting for her part of justice.

This is yet to be seen whether AIIMS administration stands by the senior woman faculty who is the victim of work place harassment by none other than the junior faculty member or otherwise…?