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Failure in one subject should not mean repeat exams for all subjects- Kerala HC

Failure in one subject should not mean repeat exams for all subjects- Kerala HC

Clearing of a Medical PG is a tough job. One has to pass all the subjects together, including theory and practical. And unlike in other fields, where failure in one subject, would imply students retaking the exam of the same subject, failing a subject in Medicine implies that all the subjects’ exams have to be retaken again.

But, hopefully not anymore.

The Kerala high court, while dismissing a case, has attacked the policy in PG Medical Education, finding the mandates of medical colleges in contradiction with the Statutes of MCI  that requires the students to appear all the exams again in case of a failure in one. The court noted :-

“The mental anguish which a student has to face in the event of his losing a theory or practical by marginal marks necessitating re-appearance for all the papers in theory and practical in order to secure a pass is unimaginable.It is possible that a candidate who has passed in the first attempt may fail in the same examination in the second attempt and the vicious circle of pass and fail will only result in unfairness to the extreme.”

The petition was filed by PG medical students of Kerala University of Health Sciences (KUHS) who failed in their M.D/M.S/Diploma courses either because they did not secure the minimum in one of the four theory papers or in one of the clinical/practical tests. The petitioners challenged the relevant clause in the KUHS Regulations as being repugnant and inconsistent with the MCI Regulations as regards the prescription for a pass in their examinations for the course.

The petitioners contended that they should be permitted to appear for the theory or the clinical/practical (in which they have failed) without insisting on the appearance for all the papers and practical again.

KUHS on the other hand, primarily relied on the argument  that -the right of the University to prescribe stricter conditions for a Post- graduate medical student to be declared passed is emphasised stating that it is only a step for raising the level of standard. The University added that its autonomy to fix higher standards in order to declare a candidate as having passed the Post-graduate medical examination cannot be interfered with in exercise of the writ jurisdiction.

The court referred to the MCI regulations in accordance with Section 33 of the IMC Act which clearly lay down

“The examinations shall be organised on the basis of ‘Grading’ or ‘Marking system’ to evaluate and to certify candidate’s level of knowledge, skill and competence at the end of the training. Obtaining a minimum of 50% marks in ‘Theory’ as well as ‘Practical’ separately shall be mandatory for passing examination as a whole.”

As stated above and pointed out by the court,

  • There is no insistence that the candidate should have obtained a separate minimum of 40 percent marks for each paper in addition to an aggregate of 50 percent marks in total in theory in order to secure a pass in the MCI Regulations.
  • Further there is no insistence that the candidate who has failed in one subject either theory or practical should again appear for all the papers including theory and practical in the MCI Regulations as in the KUHS Regulations.

KUHS on the other hand justified in front of the court implying that KUHS, by prescribing a separate minimum of 50% in the theory papers alone without aid of the marks in the viva- voce, the University was clearly raising the bar by insisting that the student must possess the higher level of knowledge of the fundamentals of the subject concerned.

However, going through all the documents and regulations the court made the following conclusion:-

“The Medical Council of India is conspicuously silent as to whether the MCI Regulations insist on a simultaneous pass in the theory and practical. The MCI Regulations cannot ipso facto lead to the conclusion that a Post- graduate medical student should pass the theory and practical simultaneously in a composite system and not individually in a component system.”

Quoting  the case of Paryani Mukesh Jawaharlal and others [(2007) 10 SCC 201] the court emphasised:

“MCI has been set up as an expert body to control the minimum standards of medical education and to regulate their observance. The Regulations framed by the MCI with the previous sanction of the Central Government, in regard to any of the matters referred to in Section 33 of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, will have statutory force and are mandatory. Universities must necessarily be guided by the MCI Regulations. Any Regulations made by the Universities which are inconsistent with the MCI Regulations or which dilute the criteria laid down by the MCI will not be valid to the extent of inconsistency or dilution.”

The discrepancy in the policies of the MCI and KUHS while not being in direct contradiction to each other, would lead to a conflict in interpretation when applied on practical grounds.

“…..But one cannot lose sight of the fact that a candidate could be declared as ‘passed’ if the MCI Regulations are adopted and at the same time declared as ‘failed’ if the KUHS Regulations are adopted.”

The court concluded that the KUHS Regulations are not consistent with or in conformity with the MCI Regulations in the matter of prescribing a minimum of 50 percent marks in theory and practical simultaneously in order to secure a pass in the examinations.

Further, it ordered the MCI to make the necessary clarifications to the interpretation of the mandate

“The Medical Council of India shall clarify as to whether each candidate should simultaneously pass the theory and practical securing 50 percent marks in each which can be incorporated in the KUHS Regulations appropriately. The needful in this regard shall be done within an outer time limit of four months from the date of receipt of this judgment and the examinations for which process has already started shall however continue.”

You can get a copy of the judgement by clicking on the link below

Kerala High COurt Judgement

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