Hours after the presidential assent to a bill enabling his removal, the government on Friday sacked eminent cardiac surgeon P Venugopal as AIIMS director with whom Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss was locked in a long-running turf war in the prestigious institution.
T D Dogra, who heads Forensic Medicines and Toxicology Department and is next to Venugopal in seniority, was appointed AIIMS' acting chief.
The dismissal of 66-year-old Venugopal came shortly after President Pratibha Patil signed the controversial bill passed by Parliament two days ago fixing the age limit of 65 years for AIIMS Director, seen as a move to ease out the cardiac surgeon.
Venugopal's removal came even as Supreme Court on Friday fixed for Monday the hearing of his petition challenging Parliament's decision to fix 65 years as the superannuation age for the post of Institute's director.
"Dogra is the senior-most physician after Venugopal and hence he has been appointed as the acting director with effect from this evening," a senior Health Ministry official said.
The AIIMS director alleged that the recent Act passed by Parliament, restricting the superannuation age at 65 years with retrospective effect, was aimed at removing him in an unconstitutional manner.
He further submitted that the Act was illegal as the Delhi High Court had in March this year upheld his continuance for the five- year tenure post; and had also asked the Centre not to retire him without its prior approval.
Venugopal was appointed to the post on July 3, 2003 for a five-year term, which was to end on July 3, 2008.
But with Section 11 (1) of the Act being amended with retrospective effect, his term would abruptly end as he is already 66 years old.
In a separate petition, the Faculty Association of All India Institute of Medical Sciences headed by its president Dr B K Khaitan has also sought quashing of the Act and removal of Ramadoss from the presidentship and membership of AIIMS governing body.