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92nd report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Health and Family Welfare

Rules tweaked to favour some for medical seats
Desk Report
NEW DELHI
: Counselling authorities in some states slyly tweaked rules to favour some cash-rich clients, giving them admission to coveted medical seats hoodwinking the hawk eye of the apex court.

According to a news report published in the Hindustan Times on September 13 the Government-designated counselling authorities in states such as Bihar, Karnataka, Punjab and Puducherry allegedly adopted inconsistent norms to enrol students in the last round of admission to medical colleges for MBBS courses.

These norms contravened guidelines set by the Supreme Court, Medical Council of India and the Health Ministry, the report said.

Citing an instance of Bihar the report said that the state opened the final counselling session at 5 pm on August 31, the last day of admission, and asked candidates to bring demand drafts of more than Rs 10 lakh drawn in favour of colleges.

Parents alleged that no banks are open from 5 pm to midnight. But candidates, who came through commission agents, had their demand draft ready in advance in favour of the colleges that they were supposed to be assigned after the counselling.

Similar irregularities happened in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Puducherry and Punjab.

The allegations defeat the purpose of the Supreme Court-mandated National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), for more than 60,000 MBBS seats in 474 private and government colleges in India.

Introduced last year to weed out corruption in medical education, NEET provides students rankings by which colleges offer admission through state-run counselling sessions. Complaints of irregularities surfaced in the final leg, called left-out or mop-up round, of the counselling process.

The report quoted Deepak Kumar Gupta of Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh who said he got a text message from Karnataka officials at 11 pm on September 4 to appear in a final-leg counselling session the following day by 11 am in Bengaluru.

He took a morning flight from Lucknow and reached the admission office at 10 am.

“The officer rejected my application because I didn’t have the draft. I requested for time or take money through NEFT (online transfer). But it was turned down,” he alleged.

Such irrational demands were allegedly made to deny deserving candidates seats and give admission to lower-ranked students.

Allegations have surfaced that officials and touts connived to deny meritorious students seats and these were then sold on the sly.

“We have access to the majority of private colleges in Bihar, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Puducherry,” the news report quoted a tout from east Delhi as having said.

Bihar medical education director Prabhat Kumar dismissed the allegations.

“We started counselling at 3 pm and allowed transfer of money through NEFT as well. We gave time till 1 pm the next day,” he said.

But Kumar admitted the mistake of not mentioning the payment mode in the official advertisement. Students denied the NEFT, or online payment, option.

Candidates scoring as low as 107 got seats during the second leg of admissions in Puducherry. But students such as R Akash, with 128 marks, didn’t get admission despite officials calling a final round to fill 96 vacant seats.

Punjab’s counselling authority, Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS), informed on September 2, which was a Saturday and a holiday for Eid, that students should appear for the final round with a demand draft at 11am on Monday.

BFUHS vice chancellor Raj Bahadur denied any wrongdoing. He said: “We accepted bank drafts of any amount in the name of BFUHS so that colleges don’t refuse admission to candidates.”

In Madhya Pradesh, the final round began at 4pm on September 10 and ended at midnight, the last day of counselling.

“A candidate with 191 marks was selected, but students with more than 400 marks were left out,” a student alleged.

A Madhya Pradesh official clarified that it was done to give preference to candidates from the home state.

SC okays replacement of MCI panel
NEW DELHI :
On July 18 the Supreme Court allowed the Centre to replace the MCI oversight committee with a fresh panel of five doctors.

A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, said the Centre had proposed the names of five eminent doctors to replace the oversight committee led by former Chief Justice of India R M Lodha, whose term had just expired.

"The doctors proposed are all outstanding people. We are satisfied with the names," the bench, also comprising Justice J Chelameswar, R K Agrawal, D Y Chandrachud and S Abdul Nazeer, said.

The judges however wondered whether the eminent doctors would have time to carry out the task of hearing the grievances of private colleges against the MCI.

The committee, set up by the court on May 2, 2016 was to function for a period of one year or till a suitable mechanism was brought in by the Centre to substitute it.

However, the government neither extended Justice Lodha panel’s term nor evolved a procedure to monitor MCI’s functioning. This prompted some private medical colleges to approach the apex court.

In Tuesday’s hearing, the government counsel informed the court that the government had taken the consent of the doctors. He said the panel can start functioning and the government will approach the court if there is a need for modification.

The fresh names suggested by the government are Randeep Guleria, Director of AIIMS, Delhi; V K Paul, Professor and Head of Paediatrics, AIIMS; Nikhil Tandon, Professor and Head of Endocrinology, AIIMS; Jagat Ram, Director of PGIMER, Chandigarh; and B N Gangadharan, Director of NIMHANS, Bengaluru.

Supreme Court panel
to monitor MCI

NEW DELHI
: Endorsing the 92nd Parliamentary Standing Committee report on MCI the Supreme Court on May 2 used its rare and extraordinary powers under the Constitution toFormer Chief Justice of India R M Lodha set up a three-member committee, headed by former Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha, to oversee the functioning of the Medical Council of India (MCI) for at least a year.

Delivering its judgement in Modern Dental College and Research Centre and others case the 5-judge Constitution Bench, led by Justice Anil R. Dave, in a 165-page judgment, said that the apex court was constrained to exercise its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution as the government had not acted on the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare. Its report on ‘The functioning of the Medical Council of India’ was tabled in Parliament on March 8, 2016.

The judgment referred to the parliamentary panel report, which described the MCI as an “ossified and opaque body” unable to cope with the “humongous” task of managing medical education in over 400 colleges across the country.

‘Unethical practices up’

“Quality of medical education is at its lowest ebb, the right type of health professionals were not able to meet the basic health needs of the country. Products coming out of medical colleges are ill-prepared to serve in poor resource settings like Primary Health Centres. Graduates lacked competence in performing basic health care tasks. Unethical practices continued to grow. The MCI was not able to spearhead any serious reforms in medical education,” the judgment said, citing the panel report.

“The MCI neither represented the professional excellence nor its ethos under the MCI Act,” Justice A.K. Sikri, who authored the judgment for the Bench, said, referring to the Parliamentary
panel report.

Besides Justice (retired) Lodha, the committee has Professor (Dr.)Dr S K Sarin Shiv Sareen (Director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences) and Vinod Rai (former Comptroller & Auditor General of India).

The Supreme Court said the Justice Lodha committee “will have the authority to oversee all statutory functions under the MCI Act. All policy decisions of the MCI will require approval of the Oversight Committee. The Committee willMr Vinod Rai be free to issue appropriate remedial directions. The Committee will function till the Central Government puts in place any other appropriate
mechanism after due consideration of the Expert Committee Report.” The court referred to how the Centre had set up the Dr. Ranjit Roy Chaudhury expert panel in July 2014 to study the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and make recommendations.

No action taken

Though the committee did submit its report in September the same year, no action was taken on the reforms suggested by it, including overseeing under-graduate and post-graduate medical education.

Unethical practices

Medical professionals indulge in unethical practices conducting unnecessary diagnostics tests and surgical procedures in order to extract money from hapless patients, the judgment said.

“The challenges facing medical education of the 21st Century are truly gigantic... Game changer reforms of transformational nature are therefore the need of the hour and they need to be carried out urgently and immediately,” it said.

‘MCI has failed on
all its mandates’


The department related standing committee on Health & Family Welfare looked into the functioning of the MCI in its 92nd report. The committee is chaired by Prof. Ram Gopal Yadav, a Rajya Sabha member from the Samajwadi party. The committee has 10 members from the Rajya Sabha and 21 members from the Lok Sabha.

In its scathing report, the standing committee felt that the MCI has repeatedly failed on all its mandates over the years. The committee noted the following as some of the prominent failures of MCI.

  • Failure to create a curriculum that produces doctors suited to working in Indian context especially in the rural health services and poor urban areas. The committee felt that this has created disconnect between medical education system and health system.
  • Failure to maintain uniform standards of medical education, both at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels.
  • Devaluation of merit in admission, particularly in private medical institutions due to prevalence of capitation fees, which make medical education available only to the rich and not necessarily to the most deserving.
  • Failure to produce a competent basic doctor.
  • Non-involvement of the MCI in any standardized summative evaluation of the medical graduates and post-graduates.
  • Failure to put in place a robust quality assurance mechanism when a fresh graduate enters the system and starts practicing.
  • Very little oversight of PG medical education leading to huge variation in standards.
  • Heavy focus on nitty-gritty of infrastructure and human staff during inspections but no substantial evaluation of quality of teaching, training and imparting of skills.
  • Abysmal doctor-population ratio.
  • Failure to create a transparent system of medical college inspections and grant of recognition or de-recognition.
  • Failure to guide setting up of medical colleges in the country as per need, resulting in geographical mal-distribution of medical colleges with clustering in some states and absence in several other states leading to disparity in healthcare services across states.
  • Acute shortage of medical teachers.
  • Failure to oversee and guide the Continuing Medical Education in the country, leaving this important task in the hands of the commercial private industry.
  • Failure to instill respect for a professional code of ethics in the medical professionals and take disciplinary action against doctors found violating the code of Ethics.

The committee also felt that the onus of failure has to be shared by successive governments both at the center and states also. The committee noted that the medical education is fast sliding downwards and quality has been hugely side-lined in the context of increasing commercialization of medical education and practice. The committee further noted that incremental tweaks won’t be enough and that a complete overhaul of the system is necessary. The committee observed that MCI is an opaque body with very little transparency.

‘Doctor – Population ratio should guide the setting up of new Medical Colleges’

The committee made a number of recommendations to overhaul the system. Some of the important recommendations of the committee are the following,

  • Doctor – Population ratio in India is 1:1674 as against the WHO norm of 1:1000, hence the government should immediately spell out policy stance in great detail to augment the capacity of production of doctors including specialists and super-specialists at the scale and speed required to meet India’s health needs.
  • State level doctor-population ratio should guide the setting up of new medical colleges and also the increase in UG and PG seats. Medical manpower planning should be bottom-up also and not just top-down with each state planning for an optimal number of doctors, with a target of 1:1000 doctor-population ratio.
  • The regulatory framework of medical education and practice should be comprised of professionals of the highest standards of repute and integrity, appointed through a rigorous and independent selection process. This process must be transparent. Nominations could be sought but the reason for the final selection should be made public.
  • Urgent measures have to be taken to restructure the composition of MCI to encourage diversity so that it does not become an exclusive club of doctors.
  • Physical infrastructure requirement should be pruned down in such a way that it should have just about 30 to 40 percent standing value in the total assessment of a medical college.
  • Support to convert district hospitals into medical colleges. If a district hospital is converted into a medical college, it will not only be equipped with specialists of all disciplines, providing the healthcare services across the whole spectrum but will also produce some doctors in its area of operation and will thus help reduce geographical mal-distribution of doctors.
  • The PG entrance exam should be held immediately after the final MBBS examination so that the graduate doctor could concentrate on practical skills during his internship.
  • Soft skills (including ethics) should be made one of the cornerstones of the syllabus of medical education.
  • Introduction of Common Medical Entrance Test (CMET) should be done across the nation barring those States who wish to remain outside the ambit of the CMET. However, if any such States wish to join the CMET later, there should be a provision to join it.
  • A common exit test should be introduced for MBBS doctors as an instrument of quality assurance and to ensure that the qualities and competencies of a doctor before he starts practicing are guaranteed and standardized in terms of various quality norms.

Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan wrote :

...There is a very thin line that divides what is dubbed as “corridor gossip” and to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, the “improbable truth”. It would have been impossible for anyone to have suggested anything questionable about the conduct of Justices Ruma Pal, Sinha, Thakker, Kapadia or a hundred others. A mischievous rumour-monger would have been nipped in the bud with the contempt he deserved right at the outset, simply because these eminences had carefully built spotless reputations over decades. With Kabir, the opposition to such a story is not so fervent.

In a little while, on his last day in office, the Chief Justice’s court will deliver the much awaited judgment concerning the validity of the national medical entrance test to be conducted by the Medical Council of India. For the better part of the last week, senior counsel and junior advocates alike have without compunction shared a story that the appeals by the private
colleges will be allowed with a declaration that the MCI has no jurisdiction, and that Justice Dave will dissent from this view. The judgment, it is confidently touted, runs into more than 190 pages and in excess of 300 paragraphs. It is my fervent hope that this tale is false – a figment of some perverse and destructive mind. In a few hours, we will know the truth.

In either event, the tragedy remains – that doubt has taken root. It is a long trudge uphill from here.

(Gopal Sankaranarayanan is a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court of India. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or position of Bar & Bench)

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 MCI cancels admission of 778 MBBS students

NEW DELHI : The Medical Council of India (MCI) has cancelled the admission of 778 MBBS students who joined private colleges in Puducherry last year for violating the Supreme Court’s guidelines, reports the Hindustan Times.

All the seven private medical colleges in the Union territory “haven’t demonstrated any evidence of fairness and transparency in the admission process...” the MCI said in a September 7, 2017 letter, cancelling the admissions.

The order came on the complaint of Puducherry lieutenant governor Kiran Bedi, who said merit had been sacrificed for money.

Bedi got complaints from parents alleging fraud and ordered a probe which found that of the 1,200 students who joined the bachelor of medicine, bachelor of surgery, or MBBS, in 2016, 778 were admitted overlooking the top court’s directives on the national eligibility-cum-entrance test (NEET).

The state-run Indira Gandhi Medical College, which has 150 seats, is in the clean as it followed the counselling guidelines.

While restoring NEET in 2016, the top court ordered all states to designate a counselling authority to prepare a list of successful candidates. Puducherry, too, set up a centralised admission committee (Centac) but the seven private colleges admitted students directly, ignoring the panel.

Panchapakesan Ganesan, whose daughter was denied admission, alleged that 778 admissions -- 770 under all India quota and eight in state quota – were made fraudulently.

President of Puducherry UT All Centac Students Parents Association M Narayanassamy wrote to Bedi, who asked a committee led by a retired judge, Chitra Venkatraman, to look into the charges.

Venkatraman’s report said the entire exercise violated the Supreme Court order, as students with high NEET scores were denied admission with money taking precedence over marks. “At the hands of the private medical colleges, merit has become a casualty,” Bedi said in a letter to MCI.

‘WHY SPARE COLLEGES?’

The parents association has questioned the MCI’s failure to act against the erring colleges.

“I am surprised why no action has been recommended by the MCI against colleges? I feel disappointed as we didn’t intend to destroy the career of students,” Narayanasamy said.

NEET : Lodha panel against bar on age, attempts

NEW DELHI: The R.M. Lodha led Supreme Court-appointed committee has reportedly vetoed a government move to cap the age of students and the number of attempts they are allowed to clear National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET).

The three member committee, headed by former chief justice Lodha, said it was in favour of striking down the government’s eligibility criteria because there is a “dearth of doctors in the country”.

In January, the government issued an executive order limiting to three the number of times a student could take the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET). It also capped the eligibility age of candidates at 25 – both decisions made on the recommendations of the Medical Council of India (MCI). Within days, the government’s order faced legal challenge from students. The Lodha panel made its recommendations on February 28.

The Supreme Court will take up the panel’s suggestions on March 20. Should the court accept those, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which conducts NEET, might have to rework the applications process that closed on March 1.

Earlier, an eligible student above the age of 17 could apply, and there was no cap on the number of attempts. The Lodha panel’s letter to the government did not make any suggestions on an upper age limit or the number of times a student could be take the exam.

Last May, as part of its efforts to clean up medical education in India, the top court had asked Justice Lodha to head an oversight committee for the MCI.

SC bars pvt colleges/assn to hold admission test

By Rajiv Shukla
NEW DELHI :
Giving another pungent blow to private college owners and their associations the Supreme Court barred them from holding any kind of admission test for MBBS or BDS seats. The bar will also be applicable on the deemed universities, the court said.

The bench said "it is clarified that no examination shall be permitted to be
held for admission to MBBS or BDS studies by any private college or association or any private/deemed university."

Continuing daily hearing in Sankalp Charitable Trust case on May 6 2016 the three-judge bench of Justices Anil R. Dave, Shiva Kirti Singh and A.K. Goel said the issue with regard to students who had appeared or who are due to appear in examinations conducted by the states in accordance with local laws, shall be decided after hearing the Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar on May 9.

The bench said students who had appeared for Neet Phase-I on May 2 would not be permitted to take Neet Phase-II. Those who could not appear for the phase-I test may appear for the second phase on July 24.

The court is expected to allow Tamil Nadu to admit students on the basis of marks in the higher secondary exam. Students of states like Telangana, Andhra Pra-desh, Kerala, Maharas-htra and Gujarat maybe allowed to admit students on the basis of local CETs.

Senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan, submitted that if private colleges are not allowed to make admissions through their own CET or through the association of private medical colleges, they were not obliged to surrender 50 per cent of their seats to the government quota and that this would result in a piquant situation.

Mr Ranjit Kumar informed the court that the Centre had convened a meeting this weekend with all the stake-holders. He would inform the court on Monday of the outcome of the meeting so that it can pass appropriate orders.

“We want NEET. On the legal side, we supported it. But I have to take instructions if states can be allowed to hold their tests this year or not. We want to resolve the issue after discussing with them,” he said.

The order came as a window of hope for states opposing NEET. The states contended that their students were not prepared to take the test as some of them studied in the vernacular medium.

NEET is back, SC bench scraps earlier judgement

By Rajiv Shukla
NEW DELHI :
In a landmark move the Supreme Court of India on April 11, 2016 recalled its one of the most controversial judgements -- NEET case judgement -- and ordered that "the case be heard afresh".

The case, called National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) case was delivered on July 18, 2013 by the Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir a dayAltamash Kabir before he was to retire, giving ample relief to private medical colleges. Some  private medical colleges had challenged the Medical Council of India and Dental Council of India regulations on admissions to medical and dental college -- and the relief allowed them to have their way in the matter of admissions.

With the recall of the judgement status quo ante has been restored and the MCI has been told to organise a combined all-India admission test for private and government medical colleges.

However, the MCI vice-chairman Dr C V Bhirmanandham has expressed his inability to hold the all-India test this year because of paucity of time and this may allow the private players to have their way this year as well.

Hearing the review petitions on April 11 the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice A R Dave and comprising Justices A K Sikri, R K Agrawal, A K Goel and R Banumathi recalled the judgment dated July 18, 2013 which had quashed NEET. It said the “majority verdict“ delivered by then Chief Justice Altamas Kabir did not consider an earlier SC judgment that was binding on the bench, nor had he consulted other members of his bench.

Incidentally Justice A R Dave, who headed the 5-judge Constitution bench that recalled the earlier order had given a dissenting verdict in the NEET case. In his April 11 order he specified that he was not consulted by the then CJI Altamas Kabir.

The April 11 order comes just a month before separate entrance tests are to be held for government and private medical colleges, putting lakhs of students in confusion. There are over 400 medical colleges in the country and lakhs of students sit for admission tests for over 52,000 MBBS seats. Since 2013, state governments and private colleges have conducted separate examinations for these.

Monday's order leaves Medical Council of India with the onerous task of conducting the NEET at a short notice as students have already filled in forms for several entrance tests.

Immediately after judgment reviving the NEET was pronounced in open court, stunned lawyers appearing for private colleges, pleaded that the SC clarify the consequences. The bench replied that “natural consequence“ was that NEET comes into force. It said the court would give a fresh hearing on constitutional validity of NEET but in the meantime, the exam will be restored. The lawyers then pleaded that the MCI's notification to bring NEET back be stayed till its validity was decided afresh and said that in 2013, too, an interim stay was given. The bench, however, rejected the plea saying the interim order was only for one academic session and it could not continue.

“After giving our thoughtful and due consideration, we are of the view that the judgment delivered in Christian Medical College needs reconsideration,“ the bench said.

Recalling earlier order the Constitution bench allowed review petitions by the Union government and the Medical Council of India (MCI) against the July 18, 2013, verdict and restored the NEET 2011 notification.

“The NEET regulations are restored and MCI can conduct the examinations pending the fresh judgement,” the order said.

According to the 2011 notification, the CBSE was to conduct the tests for admission to MBBS and BDS courses and the National Board of Examination for the PG programmes.

The 2013 verdict

The 2013 verdict had created a buzz in the apex court corridors as an advocate had posted the outcome on a social networking site in advance. However, Justice Kabir had reportedly said he was not aware of the leak of the judgment.

While Justice Vikramjit Sen (since retired) had shared the views and findings of Justice Kabir against the NEET, Justice Dave had in his dissenting verdict said that the three judges "had no discussion on the subject due to paucity of time". Justice Dave had stressed that this was not the normal practice.

Justice Dave had written in 2013 that “one of the main considerations of having one common entrance test conducted by the Medical Council of India is to check the malaise of money-making business in the admission process by selling their seats for crores, which has been going on for the last so many years in private colleges.”

The Christian Medical College, Vellore; the States of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu; several associations of private medical colleges; DD Medical College and DD Hospital, Tamil Nadu; and various private medical colleges had filed petitions in High Courts and obtained an interim stay on the applicability of the NEET on them. On the MCI’s petitions, these cases were transferred to the Supreme Court.

No quota in PG admissions, asserts SC

By Rajiv Shukla
NEW DELHI :
On October 27, 2015 the Supreme Court directed the Union  government and all state government to ensure that super-speciality medical admissions are kept "unreserved, open and free" following complaints that some southern states were allowing only domiciled MBBS doctors to appear for PG medical entrance exams.

Delivering a 58-page judgment in Dr. Sandeep and others versus Union of India and others the bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice P.C. Pant said that there should be no reservation in post-graduate medical courses based on caste, religion, residence or any other criteria.

The order came on a batch of petitions challenging the domicile policy followed by Andhra Pradesh and Telangana based on the Presidential order, namely, Andhra Pradesh Educational Institutions (Regulations and Admissions) order of 1974 promulgated under Article 371(D) of the Constitution which gave special privileges of education and employment to the local people of Andhra Pradesh.

The bench cited an earlier case - Dr Pradeep Jain versus the Union of India and others - in which the top court had held in 1984 that merit was the sole criterion when it came to super-speciality medical admissions. But till date, it said, the government has not framed any rules or guidelines to implement the directive.

"In the Dr Pradeep Jain case this court... observed that in super-specialities there should really be no reservation. This is... for improving the standard of higher education and thereby... the quality of available medical services...," Justice Misra, who wrote the judgment, observed.

"We hope and trust that the Government of India and the state governments shall seriously consider this aspect... without delay and appropriate guidelines shall be evolved by the Indian Medical Council so as to keep the super specialities... unreserved, open and free."

The petitioner doctors had complained that while in most of India they are allowed to appear in entrance exams of different states for courses like DM (Doctor of Medicine) and MCh (Master of Chirurgiae), Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu permitted only those domiciled in these states.

This, they said, means that while candidates domiciled in these states can sit for exams in other states, students from other states are barred from taking exams in these states.

The petitioners said this went against constitutional provisions like Articles 14 (equality before law) and 16 (equality of opportunity in public employment, education, etc.).

The court asked the Andhra and Telangana authorities to objectively assess the policy to see whether it does justice to the aspirations of students and approach the issue keeping national interest as paramount.

The petitions filed said how students from other States, namely, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, West Bengal, Bihar and Haryana, allow candidates from all over India to appear in the entrance examination.

It complained that States like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu confine the eligibility only to the candidates having domicile in their respective States.

This judgment only deals with the two States of Andhra and Telangana. The bench observed that it would consider Tamil Nadu's case separately in a hearing scheduled for November 4, 2015.

Supreme Court defends MCI's PG admission rules

By Rajiv Shukla
NEW DELHI:
On January 12, 2015 the Supreme Court upheld the Medical Council of India's (MCI) postgraduate admission regulations and quashed Kerala government's decision to reserve seats for doctors working in its hospitals and other departments.

The court said, in no uncertain terms, that the admissions to the postgraduate medical courses can be done only on the basis of merit of students appearing in the common entrance examination.

The apex court division bench comprising Justices T S Thakur and R Banumathi said that the Post Graduate Medical Education Regulations of the Medical Council of India, 2000 were binding and state governments could not make any rule in violation of the regulations.

The state, the apex court said, overstepped its jurisdiction by making a law earmarking 40% of total seats available to the state quota for its medical officers who were to get admission on the basis of their seniority, without appearing in the entrance examination.

Delivering its judgement in Sudhir N. & ors. versus State of Kerala & ors. on January 12 the bench said : "Regulation 9 (of MCI) is, in our opinion, a complete code by itself inasmuch as it prescribes the basis for determining the eligibility of the candidates including the method to be adopted for determining the inter se merit which remains the only basis for such admissions. To the performance in the entrance test can be added weightage on account of rural service rendered by the candidates in the manner and to the extent indicated," it said.

The court said the method, however, was given a go-by by the impugned legislation when it provided that in-service candidates seeking admission in the quota shall be granted such admission not on the basis of one of the methodologies but on the basis of seniority of such candidates.

"When the maximum marks to be obtained in the entrance test for admission to the institutions for higher education including higher medical education are fixed, the state cannot adversely affect the standards laid down by the Union government. It was held that it is for the MCI to determine reservation to be made for SC/ST and OBC candidates and lowering the qualifying marks in their favour," it said.

Upholding the order, the apex court, however, objected to the observation made by the High Court in which it said that seniority of in-service candidates should be considered while preparing merit list.

"A meritorious in-service candidate cannot be denied admission only because he has an eligible senior above him though lower in merit. It is now fairly well settled that merit and merit alone can be the basis of admission. Their merit cannot be overlooked only to promote seniority which has no place in the scheme of MCI regulations," it said.

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