High Court upholds NMC decision of not issuing eligibility certificate to FMGE candidate who didn't study English as Separate Subject
Chennai: Observing that the individual opinion of a judge cannot change the required qualifications mentioned in the Regulations, the Madras High Court recently dismissed the plea by a doctor seeking an Eligibility Certificate from National Medical Commission (NMC) even though she didn't fulfill the eligibility criteria.
NMC had refused to allow the doctor for appearing in the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE), which is mandatory for being eligible to practice as a medical practitioner in India, because the candidate had not studied English as a separate subject in her higher secondary education.
When the doctor moved to HC and sought interference of the court, the HC bench comprising of Justice N. Anand Venkatesh dismissed the same and observed, "Admittedly, the Petitioner has not undergone English as a separate subject in the Higher Secondary Course. The experts in their wisdom have stipulated an eligibility criteria and this court exercising its jurisdiction under Article 226 of Constitution of India, cannot sit over judgment upon this stipulation made by the experts. The individual opinion of a judge cannot come in the way while deciding cases of this nature and this court has to necessarily satisfy itself as to whether a candidate fulfils the qualification prescribed in the regulation. The law on this issue is well settled."
The Foreign Medical graduate had pursued her Secondary Education in India under the Central Board of Secondary School Education and later when her family moved to Sri Lanka she continued her Higher Secondary Education in there and she chose Pearson Edexcel GCE A-Level Board of Examinations curriculum since it is closest to Indian and International level of education. Following that, she completed her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in Sichuan University, China and obtained MBBS degree.
Although the student had completed her education only in the English Medium, obtained a score of 7.5 out of 9 in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) issued by the British Council, and obtained her equivalence certificate from the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) for her GCE A-Level Examination from Pearson Edexcel, she hadn't studied English as a separate subject in her Higher Secondary Education. As a result, when she applied for appearing in the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE), the National Medical Commission (NMC) rejected her application citing the not studying English in Higher Secondary as the reason.
The doctor had also approached NMC and submitted her representation before the Apex Medical Body. However, when the representation was not considered, she approached the High Court and when the petition came up for admission back on 15.06.2021, the High Court had passed interim orders where the petitioner doctor was permitted to write the FMG examination, pending disposal of the petition.
In an attempt to make her case, the counsel for the petitioner referred to the decision taken by AIU in this regard. As per the AIU, "5 (Five) passes at GCE O level/GCSE/IGCSE and 2(Two) / 3 (Three) passes at GCE Advanced level of the approved British Examining Bodies have been recognized by AIU as equivalent to +2 stage qualification of an Indian Board, giving access to the Bachelor's Degree programmes of Indian Universities."
The counsel for the petitioner, thus argued that considering such a decision taken by AIU, NMC should consider the petitioner doctor's application for Eligibility Certificate.
On the other hand, the NMC contended that as per Regulation 8 under the Foreign Medical Institution Regulations, 2002, a candidate shall be issued with Eligibility Certificate only if the candidate fulfils the Eligibility Criteria for admission to MBBS course in India, i.e. minimum qualifying marks criteria in Physics, Chemistry, Biology Biotechnology & English, as prescribed in the Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 1997.
"It is therefore mandatory that each student should be enrolled for a period oftwo years and each student must undergo regular, co-terminus / simultaneousteaching and training in the subjects of Physics, Chemistry and Biology with practicals along with English in his/her Higher Secondary Education (10+2)," submitted NMC in the affidavit.
After listening to the contentions, the High Court bench considered the Eligibility Criteria for MBBS courses as per Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 1997, where it has been mentioned clearly that a student needs to study English as a compulsory subject at the 10+2 level.
Further the Court noted that the Foreign Medical Institution Regulations, 2002 clearly mentioned that an application for Eligibility Certificate should only be considered if a candidate "fulfills the eligibility criteria for admission to MBBS course in India as prescribed in the Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 1997, i.e. minimum qualifying marks criteria in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and English, including relaxed criteria in case the candidate belongs to a reserved category."
"In case the candidate does not fulfill any of the qualifying criteria the Council may reject his application for issue of Eligibility Certificate giving the reasons therefore," further mentions the Regulations.
Referring to the concerned regulations, the court opined, "In the considered view of this court, the relevant regulation has to be understood from the plain language that has been used in the regulation and this court cannot tweak it to suit the convenience of a candidate. Howsoever persuasive may be the plea raised by the learned counsel for the Petitioner by impressing upon the court that the Petitioner is good in English and has undergone the Higher Secondary Course through English medium, this court is duty bound to satisfy itself as to whether the Petitioner has fulfilled the qualification criteria as prescribed under the regulation. A careful reading of Clause (a) shows that the word "OR" has been placed in between physics, chemistry, biology/ biotechnology and mathematics on the one side and any other elective subjects on the other side. When it comes to English subject, it is applicable to both streams and it is also specifically provided that the English subject must be at a level prescribed by the NCERT. Therefore, Clause (a), by no stretch, dispenses with the candidate undergoing English as a compulsory subject."
"Admittedly, the Petitioner has not undergone English as a separate subject in the Higher Secondary Course. The experts in their wisdom have stipulated an eligibility criteria and this court exercising its jurisdiction under Article 226 of Constitution of India, cannot sit over judgment upon this stipulation made by the experts. The individual opinion of a judge cannot come in the way while deciding cases of this nature and this court has to necessarily satisfy itself as to whether a candidate fulfils the qualification prescribed in the regulation. The law on this issue is well settled," further noted the bench as it denied to interfere with the communication dated 14.06.2021 issued by NMC and dismissed the petition.
To read the High Court order, click on the link below.