Recognize our sacrifices: PG Resident Doctors move SC challenging NMC Notifications, seek waiving of final exams
New Delhi: Challenging the earlier notifications by the National Medical Commission (NMC) advising the medical colleges to continue taking services of Post-graduate resident doctors and also asking the universities to decide on the time and date for conducting the final year examination, 29 doctors have approached the Supreme Court seeking directions for waiving the final examination...
New Delhi: Challenging the earlier notifications by the National Medical Commission (NMC) advising the medical colleges to continue taking services of Post-graduate resident doctors and also asking the universities to decide on the time and date for conducting the final year examination, 29 doctors have approached the Supreme Court seeking directions for waiving the final examination of final year PG medical residents.
The plea moved by the PG resident doctors, who are pursuing postgraduate courses (MD/MS/DM/Diploma) in various disciplines of medical science, further seeks promotions of the petitioners as senior residents and post-doctoral students as soon as the scheduled tenure completion of three or two years along with pay scale and other allowances. They have further sought directions for constituting a joint expert committee for examining and recommending the prayers of the petition and its recommendations.
Further highlighting the services provided by the PG resident doctors to tackle the pandemic, the plea pointed out, "in the face of a pandemic like Covid-19, it is incumbent upon the Respondents, as their fundamental duty, to frame sustainable and effective policies, which looks after the interest of the postgraduate resident doctors who have given their everything in the fight against the pandemic."
Pointing out that the State cannot ignore the injustice being done to the PG resident doctors, the plea further mentioned, "the state being a custodian of welfare of citizen, cannot be a silent spectator to injustice meted out to postgraduate medical students who have given their services selflessly till date."
Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that the apex medical education regulatory body, National Medical Commission (NMC) had issued an advisory asking all the PG medical students to continue their services as resident doctors until a fresh batch of MBBS graduates join to serve. This decision had been taken to ensure that there would not be any shortage of Residents to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plea moved by 29 PG resident doctors has challenged that notification issued by NMC along with another notification dated 22.04.2021. In those notifications, the NMC on one hand had advised the medical colleges to further continue taking the services of postgraduate Final year medical students/residents to keep up the fight against this pandemic and on the other, it had advised the universities to decide the time and method of postgraduate practical final examination taking into consideration the pandemic situation in their area.
Calling those notifications "harsh" and "arbitrary", the petitioner doctors have pointed out that ideally the final year PG students get a study leave of about 2 months whereas owing to the pandemic situation they had not been given even 1 day for preparation.
"The notifications fail to recognize the catastrophic impact of absence of the Final year PG residents in our nation's fight against Covid-19 pandemic, if the final exams were to happen. In such circumstances the respondents ought to do away with the passing marks i.e. 50 %," stated the plea.
Opining that their duty towards Covid-19 patients should be considered while evaluating their practical experience, the plea further mentioned that even though the authorities extended the academic period beyond the prescribed schedule of 3 years due ongoing pandemic, they failed to give the PG medicos any credit for that.
Mentioning that the final examination of the PG resident doctors is an extremely important cornerstone for the students and also pointing out the apathy of the Government and NMC in not recognizing their efforts, the PG resident doctor have filed the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India under the following grounds:
- Non-waiver of the final examination and not conferring them with degrees contravenes Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, considering that they were not given any time for preparation.
- Not evaluating the PG residents on the basis of past record/covid duty is harsh and arbitrary as it contravenes the basic rights of the petitioners guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21.
- The Government under the Disaster Management Act can issue directions upon NMC for waiving the final year examination of PG students and evaluate them on the basis of past records and COVID duty.
- The Apex Court can issue directions upon the Government and NMC as the law and regulations are silent on the vital questions of fundamental rights. The Post Graduate regulation of the erstwhile Medical Council of India (MCI) mandates the final examination for conferring a degree. However, it also mandates a time limit for the same. Thus, the petitioners have been made to extend the period of residency without any legal basis.
- Conferring degree to PG residents would add to the pool of healthcare personnel as conferment of degrees can be subjected to the rendering of compulsory COVID duty by resident doctors for a fixed period of time.
- The well-trained and experienced resident doctors can be very handy in the nation's fight against the pandemic. Adding only healthcare infrastructure would not solve the problem as the infrastructure must be managed by qualified doctors.
- Considering the pandemic situation, it is the duty of the government to frame sustainable and effective policies which look after the interest of PG resident doctors who have given their everything in the fight against the pandemic.
- The State, which is responsible for the welfare of its citizens, can not be silent on the injustice meted out to the PG medical students who have given their service to date.
- The authorities can award the petitioners with MD/MS degree on the basis of their clinical acumen which has been proved efficiently by them during the course of the pandemic. Besides, many of the residents would be COVID positive already and won't be able to appear for the examination. It will also lead to mental agony and may result in depression in these resident doctors many of whom, already have had to deal with the physical and mental exhaustion of Covid duties and losing their near and dear ones.
- The petitioners have not avoided their duties to treat such a highly infectious disease and thus the Government must recognize their sacrifices and act in such a way that would be helpful for their careers.
- The petitioners have already submitted their thesis and are qualified doctors. However, they are not getting even one day to prepare where otherwise they are given around two months time period.
- The government and NMC have already relaxed the provisions regarding the submission of their thesis and thus they can do away with the entire examination process easily without extending the time period of courses.
- The Apex Court can seek assistance of expert-panels, Commissioners, Advisory-Committees etc. to render justice.
The petition moved by the PG medicos raises the following questions of law:
a) Whether non-waiver of final examination of the final year post-graduate medical students/resident doctors and conferring them degree in the current pandemic situation in the backdrop of their services rendered contravenes Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution particularly, when they have been denied any preparation time owing to their COVID duty?
b) Whether the Respondents decision of not 'waiving' the final examination of the final year postgraduate medical students/resident doctors and not evaluating them on the basis of past record/covid duty is harsh and manifestly arbitrary thereby contravening the fundamental rights of the petitioners guaranteed under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution?
c) Whether under the provisions of Disaster Management Act the Central Government can issue mandatory directions to Respondent no. 3 for waiving the final examination of postgraduate medical students?
The petitioners also cited the Prime Minister's recommendation of extending the services of Final year resident doctors to ensure adequate manpower to tackle the unprecedented crisis being thrown up by the pandemic.
Calling the decision of conducting final year examinations as 'salt to the injury', the plea stated, "However, the Respondents have failed to realise that PG and super-specialty courses are for a fixed tenure and extensions are normally handed over as punishment for poor performance or for attendance shortage. It is akin to 'imposed failure', which is very demoralizing for the petitioners. On the top of all this expecting the final year resident doctors to appear in final examination which is admittedly a gruesome exercise and requires tremendous preparation is adding 'salt to the injury'."
On the basis of these contentions, the petition moved by the PG medicos was filed under Article 32 of the constitution of India seeking the following prayers:
"1. Issue writ of mandamus directing the respondents to, issue necessary directions waiving the final examination of final year post graduate medical residents.
2. Issue appropriate writ(s)/directions(s) for promoting the petitioners as senior residents and post-doctoral students as soon as the scheduled tenure completion of three or two years (whichever applicable) along with pay scale and other allowances.
3. Issue appropriate writ(s)/directions(s) for constitution of a joint expert committee for examining and recommending on the prayers of this petition and its recommendations, shall be binding on all the respondents.
4. Declare the impugned notification no. NMC/MCI-23(1)/2021- Med dated 22.4.2021 [Annexure P/3] and notification No. NMC/Secy/2021/25 dated 27.4.2021 [Annexure P/4] issued by Respondent no. 3 to be unconstitutional and ultra vires;
5. Pass such other and further orders as may be deemed just and proper by this Hon'ble Court, in the facts and circumstances of this case."
To view the petition, click on the link below.