Postpone FMGE June: Medicos move Delhi HC, Centre asks unwilling candidates to appear in December
New Delhi: Seeking direction upon the National Board of Examinations (NBE) to postpone the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination, a bunch of medicos has approached the Delhi High Court citing the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as the reason. The medicos who have pursued their medical education from abroad have come under the banner of Association of MD Physician and objected to appearing for the FMG examination scheduled to take place on June 18, 2021.
However, opposing the plea, the Centre has submitted before the Court that FMGE is merely a screening test and the candidates who are unable to write the examination now, may appear for the same in December. The High Court vacation bench of Justice Amit Bansal has adjourned the matter to be next heard on June 11.
Submitting that only one-fourth of the total member of the petitioners' association have received the 1st dose of Covid-19 vaccines and pointing out that many of the candidates have Covid-19 patients at home who need care the plea stated, "in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is neither safe, nor feasible for a such large number of candidates to appear for the FMG Examination to be conducted in June 2021," further requesting to at least let the candidates get both the doses of the Covid-19 vaccine before appearing for the screening test.
The plea seeks the following directions upon the National Board of Examinations (NBE):
a) Issue an Appropriate Writ, Order or Direction, in the nature of a Writ of Mandamus, under Article 226 of the Constitution setting aside the time schedule for conduct of the June 2021 FMGE as contained in the Notice dated 15.04.2021 and the Information Bulletin dated 16.04.2021, titled 'Foreign Medical Graduate Exam Screening Test Information Bulletin December 2020 Session," published by the NBE and all consequences thereof;
b) Direct the NBE to conduct the examination at a time conducive for such examination, but no earlier than six (6) weeks from the date when the examination was originally scheduled.
c) pass such further order(s) as may be deemed fit and proper in facts and circumstances of the present case, in the interest of justice.
The petitioners have cited several other examinations that have been postponed or canceled including NEET PG 2021, AIIMS Nursing Entrance Examination, CLAT, AILET, Class XII board exams, JEE Mains, CUCET, etc. When all the other examinations have either been cancelled or postponed, conducting FMGE screening test is wholly arbitrary and unreasonable, contended the petitioners.
However, the foreign medical graduates in their petition have clarified that they like other FMGs are "ready and willing to be part of the COVID-19 workforce" and have pointed out that "working ad-hoc as part of such workforce (which may be treated as an internship, and which issue is also pending before the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the same Writ Petition) is wholly different from sitting for the FMGE, which would require displacement from their homes, movement and travel, RT-PCR testing and staying in a city which they would not call home."
Mentioning that they will be forced to travel to other cities to appear for the examination, the petition has also pointed out that amidst the second wave of the pandemic, which still poses a threat to life and health of every human, they were taking care of their family member who tested positive for the virus and this has resulted in a reduced time of preparation.
"While for some of the candidates, it may be difficult to leave their respective family members in such times, it is also to be of concern that all the candidates who do appear for the FMG Examination will certainly put their families, friends, and citizenry in greater risk while appearing for the examination," stated the plea.
Claiming that such a mass examination would require "avoidable intercity/ interstate movement, along with exposure to hotels/ intra-city travel" the petitioners have pointed out that this "will likely only expedite the arrival of third-wave and affect the candidates who are potential healthcare workforce of the country."
In this respect, the plea further pointed out that in light of the second wave of the pandemic, all the States in the country have imposed complete or partial lockdowns, weekend curfews, and various forms of travel restrictions, including limited or no local transports, and mandatory requirement of negative RT-PCR reports.
"Such lockdowns make intra-city travel extremely difficult, including access to food/ other requirements in an unknown city," claimed the petitioners adding that this would cause a huge risk to the health and life of the petitioners and their family members who shall be forced to travel to different cities in order to appear for the examination.
The petitioners have further pointed out that the requirement of undergoing RT-PCR test would be an additional financial burden on the unemployed doctors and mentioned that "it also imposes additional and unreasonable burden on Covid-testing infrastructure of the country which is already spread thinly to cope with the second wave."
The plea also pointed out that NBE failed to consider and notify provisions for candidates who may have applied but may not be able to appear for the FMG Examination in June 2021, as it had mentioned that the exorbitant examination fee (Rs 7,080/-) shall neither be refunded nor carried forward to any future exams.
Further, expressing their concern regarding the decision of NBE to allow candidates with symptoms of COVID-19 but not diagnosed positive to appear for the examination in isolation labs the plea stated that this "aggravates the risk for the remaining candidates, invigilators, and other persons involved in conduct of the examination to contract the Covid-19 virus."
The examination shall also require NBE to capture the finger biometrics of all the candidates creating the possibility of transmission of Covid-19 virus through the device that will be used to capture the biometrics, stated the plea.
Citing all these reasons the plea has mentioned that NBE should postpone the examination on humanitarian grounds itself, and thus the petition sought directions upon NBE for deferring the FMG examination for the time being and requested the time schedule proposed for the conduct of the examination to be struck down.
During the hearing of the case, the counsel for the petitioner submitted as quoted by Live Law, "There are 46 Centres in India. When people move from one place to another they have to come with a negative RT PCR report and they have to lodge themselves in the city. I have to come one day prior to the exam... I also have to come early and not be allowed to carry mobile phones and other valuables inside... so I have to bring somebody along with me to take care of my valuables...," seeking a 4-week postponement, allotment of more centres, and facilities for the candidates to place their belongings in the exam centre.
Responding to this, Centre argued that around 18,600 students have registered to appear for the examination and there are already 98 centres across 52 cities, which is already double the number of centres available in the pre-covid era. The counsel for the Centre further argued that the petition itself was flawed since the Association did not have the authority to file petition on the behalf of the students.
In response, the HC vacation bench asked the petitioner to place on record the resolution authorizing the association to file the present petition, reports Live law. Apart from this, the Court also directed the Centre to submit any document showing that Covid considerations were taken while conducting the exams in mid-June.
Medical dialogues had earlier reported that medical graduates, who have pursued their medical education from outside of India, had approached the Apex Court under the banner of The Association of MD Physicians, All India Foreign Medical Graduates and Russian Medical Graduates Associations, seeking directions upon the State to deploy such doctors in the Covid-19 workforce with facilities like that of MBBS graduates.
In their plea before the Apex Court the foreign medical graduates had sought a one-time exemption for their members and for all other such doctors eligible to take the foreign medical graduate exam in order to augment the health infrastructure of the country.
To view the petition, click on the link below.