Doctors cannot be treated like footballs: SC Slams NMC, NBE
New Delhi: The Apex Court on Monday slammed the National Medical Commission (NMC) and the National Board of Examinations (NBE) over the issue of last-minute changes in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test Super Specialty (NEET-SS) exam pattern.
When the top court bench comprising of Justices DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathna questioned the authorities why the changes cannot be enforced next year, the counsel for NBE submitted that the changes were under consideration for some time and have been enforced after obtaining necessary approvals.
Dissatisfied with the response, the top court bench noted, "Don't treat this young doctors as footballs in the game of power. Hold the meeting and put your house on order. We can't put these doctors at the mercy of insensitive bureaucrats," reports Live Law.
The bench has further directed the NBE and NMC to "set the house in the order" after duly consulting with the Union Health Ministry as the matter was posted to be heard in the next week. Besides, the court also warned the authorities of issuing "strictures" if the solution is not on the table after the meeting.
Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that around 41 qualified post-graduate doctors across India recently knocked the doors of the Supreme Court as they expressed their strong objection to the abrupt last minute changes in the NEET-SS 2021 exam pattern.
Filed through Advocate Javedur Rahman, the petition sought to strike down the changes claiming that the changes are manifestly arbitrary and also there is lack of authority for implementing the changes.
The doctors argued that even though the dates of the NEET SS 2021 exam was announced on July 23, 2021 the changed pattern was made known to the public after more than one month had passed, i.e. on August 31, 2021. Thus, the changes were made only two months before the exam which is scheduled to be held on November 13 and 14.
Further, it was also submitted that the previous pattern was in place for the last three years and previously, when changes were made in the pattern or the scheme, candidates were made aware of the same at least 6 months before the exam in order to make sure that the candidates get ample time to prepare.
During the last date of hearing, the counsel representing the petitioner doctors pointed out that the last minute changes in the exam pattern have put the students from disciplines other than general medicine at a disadvantageous position.
It has been pointed out in the plea that the previous pattern which has been in place since 2018 made sure that 60 per cent marks were allotted to questions in the super-specialty while 40 per cent from feeder courses. However, the entirety of the questions for the critical care super specialty would be drawn from general medicines.
Pointing out that this change would put students from other specialties at a great deal of disadvantageous position, the counsel for the petitioner further argued that changes shouldn't be made after the exam notification was issued and student started their preparation. Rules of the game cannot be changed after the commencement of the game, he had argued.
Issuing notice to NMC and the Central Government, the Supreme Court had posted the matter for hearing on September 27.
During the hearing of the case on Monday, the bench questioned the authorities why the changes in the exam pattern were notified only after the students had commenced their preparations.
The bench asked Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, the counsel for NBE, as reported by Live Law, "Why has the notice been issued? Students start preparing for super specialty courses months & months in advance. Why is the need to change the same last minute before the exam? Why can you not proceed with the changes from the following year?"
In fact, the top court didn't spare NMC as well. It asked Advocate Gaurav Sharma, the counsel representing the apex medical body, "Mr. Sharma, what is the NMC doing? We're dealing with lives of doctors. You issue notice & then change the pattern?"
Responding to the Court's queries, the counsel for NBE submitted that the changes were "well-considered" and were being contemplated for some time. He further submitted that the changes have been enforced only after obtaining necessary approvals from the authorities as he prayed for time from the court to file its reply.
However, dissatisfied with such a response, Justice Chandrachud was quoted saying by the daily, "Don't treat this young doctors as footballs in the game of power. Hold the meeting and put your house on order. We can't put these doctors at the mercy of insensitive bureaucrats".
Asking the authorities to set the house in the order after consulting the Union Health Ministry, the bench further noted, "This is so important for their career. Now you cannot introduce changes last minute."
"The pattern of study is according to pattern of exams. if you change it suddenly then what will happen?", further added the bench.
Finally, the court warned of issuing "strictures" if the authorities don't come up with a solution after the meeting.
"Please be open to strictures of the Supreme Court if we are not agreeing with you. Deal with young doctors with sensitivity. You cannot deal with their lives like this," noted the bench.