Dean of Madurai Medical College removed after students take Sanskrit Charak oath



The Tamil Nadu government on Sunday removed the dean of Madurai Medical College, a day after its new students were administered the Maharshi Charak Shapath, in Sanskrit, instead of the usual Hippocratic Oath in English.

The event, attended by two state ministers — Finance Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan and Commercial Taxes Minister P Moorthy – had triggered a controversy, coming as it did amidst an already brewing language row and Tamil Nadu’s tensions with the Centre.

As visuals of students taking the Sanskrit oath were widely publicised, the state government ordered the removal of Dean A Rathinavel, saying he was being placed on a waiting list for future posting.

Tamil Nadu Health Minister Ma Subramanian said the government had ordered a detailed probe and that action would be taken over the violation of long-standing policies and practices. “We have also written to all medical institutions in the state to follow the traditional Hippocratic Oath. This government will not allow a departure from this convention,” Subramanian said.

The National Medical Commission (NMC), which has replaced the Medical Council of India as the regulator for medical education and practices in the country, recently suggested that medical colleges give their students the ‘Charak Shapath’ instead of the Hippocratic Oath. The move had triggered a row, seen as part of the BJP-led government’s Hindutva agenda.

While Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya had then said that Charak Shapath was optional and would not be forced on medical students, a modified version of the Sanskrit vow was made available for colleges to use for their new batches.

Apart from a break from tradition, in Tamil Nadu, which has always protested any move that is seen as imposition of Hindi, Sanskrit, or the Centre in the state, the issue is even more fraught.

Dean Rathinavel said a student body official had taken the decision to take the Charak oath, and that the students had got it from the NMC website, where the Sanskrit oath is in Roman script. However, his superiors did not accept his justification.

Among those who raised the issue was NDA ally PMK. Its leader and former Union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss said he was surprised that this happened in the presence of state ministers. “It should have been prevented then and there…,” he said.

The Charak oath is from ‘Charaka Samhita’, one of the crucial Ayurveda texts on ancient medical practices. The Hippocratic Oath has its origins in Greek medical texts and has been historically taken by physicians across the world.

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