Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Saturday clarified the apex court is not yet cancelling admissions into private medical colleges, but institutions' management need to adopt the court-devised admission policy within 15 days to avoid adverse circumstances.
A day after disbanding the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), the chief justice was hearing cases in the Karachi Registry, where he said: "We are neither cancelling admissions, nor are we suspending the admission process; but these admissions are dependent on the [fulfillment of] court orders."
However the chief justice, who was presiding over a three-member bench hearing the matter, upheld its decision to not allow any more private medical colleges from being registered and ordered the existing ones to submit their admission criteria and other details.
"We are reviewing the entire process. We're giving a form to private colleges, who need to fill it and let us know what facilities they have and if they're meeting our standards."
The chief justice also formed a five-member inspection committee comprising the vice-chancellors of Aga Khan University, Dow University of Health Sciences, Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Centre as well as advocates Faisal Siddiqui and Shahab Osto.
The court directed the inspection team to visit medical colleges on Monday.
"Consider this a request and order or an elder brother's advice, [but] private medical colleges have 15 days to get their house in order," the chief justice said. "Because when the inspection team will pay a visit, there will be no leniency shown."
Justice Nisar had previously said he will personally visit private medical colleges to improve their affairs, and in Saturday's hearing he seemed intent on following through with his plan as he told Sindh Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho: "We will visit a private medical college today. Tell us about the nearest private medical college and hospital."
The chief justice also directed the health secretary to obtain complete reports and affidavits signed by medical superintendents of government hospitals.
"We need to know how many beds are there, and what medical equipment and medicine are being used," he explained.
Cooperation or incarceration, CJ jests with Dr Asim Hussain
Also in attendance on the court's order was former PMDC president Dr Asim Hussain, whom Justice Nisar cajoled into action.
"You are out on bail," the CJ asked Hussain, who replied with a, "Yes sir, I am out on bail."
"Since you seem fine and healthy, why don't we take suo moto notice of your bail," the CJ jested. "Get ready to go back to jail."
However, the chief justice quickly relieved Hussain's apprehensions, saying: "We will not touch your bail if you cooperate with us."
Hussain quickly assured the chief justice that, "I have come to the court for the very reason to cooperate."
Hussain later lent his "complete support" to the Supreme Court's drive to eradicate malpractices within private medical colleges.
"Public and private medical colleges should be strictly monitored," he later told the media. "[Medical colleges in] Pakistan have a need for 10,000 faculty members, but we only have 6,000."
He continued: "15 per cent seats should be reserved for underprivileged students, whose fees the government should pay."
"If the government wants, it can open 10 medical colleges overnight, and they will directly benefit the poor," he added.
The apex court, under its 2018 agenda, is focusing on human rights issues, particularly those relating to the people’s right to quality education and healthcare.