In a landmark judgment, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India has ordered that the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) is the supreme authority to regulate pharmacy education, and for approval of pharmacy courses and institutions in the country.
Dual regulation of pharmacy colleges needs to be ended forthwith and the AICTE Act governing the general technical education would be amended deleting ‘pharmacy’ from its mandate. Pharmacy education in the country should be governed by the Pharmacy Act, 1948, says the order.
The judgment says that both the Pharmacy Act and the PCI, the statutory body constituted under it, will prevail as far as the recognition of degrees and diplomas of pharmacy education is concerned. The norms and regulations set by the PCI and other specified authorities under the Pharmacy Act needs to be followed by any institution imparting education for degrees and diplomas in pharmacy.
The court was considering a bunch of petitions on the difficulties faced by pharmacy institutions in the country due to dual regulations by PCI and the technical education regulator, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
The order issued on March 5 is applicable to all petitions filed in the Supreme Court and also to those cases transferred to the top court from various high courts. “As common question of law and facts arise in this group of cases, all these cases are being decided together by this common judgment and order”, says the court order.
The highest court in the country has found that since the Pharmacy Act is a special act in the field of pharmacy it will prevail as far as the recognition of degrees and diplomas of pharmacy education is concerned. Similarly, since the Pharmacy Council of India is constituted under the provisions of the pharmacy act which consists of experts in the field of pharmacy and related subjects, it will prevail.
The court has directed those institutions which have increased their intake capacity as approved by AICTE and that increase has been not approved by PCI to apply afresh with the PCI within a period of four months for increasing the intake capacity for the next academic year.
Further, cases for increase in intake capacity and/or applications for recognition and/or applications for approval of the course or evening shift should be considered by the PCI in accordance with the Pharmacy Act, 1948 and rules and regulations framed therein and the norms prescribed by the PCI.
Hearing the arguments of the PCI, the three member court has observed that considering the statutory scheme under the pharmacy act, the word “pharmacy” needs to be dropped from the definition of “technical education” under Section 2 (g) of the AICTE Act. Similarly, it deserves to be held as one inapplicable in relation to the regulatory measures for prescribing minimum standards for education in the field of pharmacy.
The All India Council for Technical Education has argued that the word, ‘pharmacy’ is there in the definition of ‘technical education’ in Section 2 (g) of the AICTE Act, the council is solely based on it.
PCI has argued that considering the statutory scheme contained in the Pharmacy Act, which is a complete code by itself dealing with the subject of pharmacy, the jurisdiction for regulating the standards of education in the subject of pharmacy and subsequent professional conduct of pharmacists vests entirely on PCI and AICTE does not have any jurisdiction or power in this behalf. Under pharmacy act, the council has been constituted as a body empowered to regulate the education and profession of Pharmacy in India.
It is empowered to determine and enforce the qualifications required for a person to practice as Pharmacist in India, including approving courses of study and institutions which may offer such courses of study to enable one to practice the profession of a pharmacist. PCI is supposed to prescribe the minimum standards of education and approve courses of study for pharmacists.
The court has taken note of the decisions of the joint meeting held by ministry of health and family welfare and by the ministry of HRD on dual recognition of pharmacy colleges. It was found that both the Pharmacy Act, 1948 and the AICTE Act, 1987, contain the provisions regarding pharmacy education leading to duplication of regulations and considerable confusion at the field level.
So it was unanimously agreed that this dual regulation should be ended forthwith and the AICTE Act governing the general technical education would be amended deleting ‘pharmacy’ from its mandate and the pharmacy education would thereafter be governed by the Pharmacy Act, 1948, says the order.