The Tamil Nadu Government on Wednesday reinstated A Rathnavel as the Dean of the prestigious Madurai Medical College, three days after transferring him following a controversy over students taking the Maharshi Charak Shapath instead of the usual Hippocratic Oath.
Health Minister Ma Subramanian said the decision to reinstate the Dean was taken after the intervention from Chief Minister M K Stalin who recommended that he be taken back as he has "expressed regret" and also kept in mind his “good work” during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He also announced that Hippocratic Oath will continue to be used in oath-taking ceremonies in Tamil Nadu and warned of action against authorities who deviate from well-established conventions. The minister said the Shapath has controversial contents like a male doctor will treat a female patient only in the presence of her husband or relatives, while the Hippocratic Oath talks about the qualities that doctors should possess.
Subramanian also said the government opposes the Shapath not just because of its controversial and objectionable content, but also because it may be forced on students in the next five or ten years, that too to recite in Sanskrit.
“If such things happen, that will become a huge issue in Tamil Nadu due to the imposition of a language which is spoken by just 24,000 people in the country. The Chief Minister believes Sanskrit should not be imposed here,” Subramanian added.
A Rathnavel, Dean of the Madurai Medical College, was transferred and placed on the waitlist on Sunday after it emerged that first-year students read the English translation of the Sanskrit text, Maharshi Charak Shapath, instead of the conventional Hippocratic Oath which is in practice for over a century.
Though the Dean pleaded innocence, maintaining that the institute’s Students’ Council decided to replace the Hippocratic Oath with the Shapath without due consultation, the government went ahead with his transfer.
Madurai Medical College Students’ Council President Jothish Kumaravel also acknowledged that they downloaded the text from the website of the National Medical Commission and added it to the event without the concurrence of the advisory committee of the institute.
The government came under pressure to reinstate Dr Rathnavel after it emerged that a few other medical college students also took the Shapath in the past few months – the doctor also received support from former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram and AIADMK coordinator O Panneerselvam who demanded the withdrawal of his transfer.
“The Dean met me in the morning and said the mistake was inadvertent and it won’t recur in the future. The Chief Minister told me that he heard about the Dean’s good work during Covid-19 pandemic and since he has expressed regret, he should be reinstated. His order has been implemented,” Subramanian said.
The minister said Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan had informed Deans of all medical colleges not to get caught in unnecessary controversies after social media was abuzz with news that NMC has recommended replacing the Hippocratic Oath with the Shapath.
The Director of Medical Education (DME) also wrote a letter to Deans in this regard. Despite this, the minister said, apart from Madurai, the Shapath was taken in Ramanathapuram medical college as well.