Sub-standard students cannot be elevated: HC denies relief to MBBS medicos seeking Qualifying Marks in Practical Exams
Amravati: Observing that, sub-standard students cannot somehow be elevated to higher classes, the Andhra Pradesh High Court has recently dismissed a petition filed by a bunch of students seeking minimum qualifying marks in their final MBBS Part-II practical exams.
In this context, the High Court bench comprising Justice U. Durga Prasad Rao held that the MBBS course is regulated by the National Medical Commission (NMC) and "Regulation on Graduate Medical Education (Amendment) 2019" framed by the NMC do not contain any provision to award marks liberally in some contingencies.
Thus, dismissing the petition, the bench denied directing the University and NMC to award marks to the petitioner students when there was no violation of any fundamental right or other statutory rights.
The case concerned a bunch of final year MBBS students who had failed in the Part-II examination held during March 2021 as they didn't receive the minimum qualifying marks in MBBS final Part-II practical examinations.
It had been submitted by the students that due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, they had to attend online classes and there was no regular correspondence with the concerned University (Dr. NTR University of Health Sciences) or Medical institute for better understanding and guidance.
Meanwhile, the University scheduled the Final year theory and practical exams. As per the guidelines, in order to pass, a student needs to score 50% in theory and practicals and 35% as pass marks in internals and should score an aggregate of 50% for qualifying the semesters.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the prescribed classes were not conducted for theory as well as practicals, but the services of students of final year were utilized for the treatment of COVID positive patients, due to which some of the petitioners were affected with COVID.
Under such circumstances, the students appeared for the MBBS exams and despite their level best performance the petitioner students failed on the ground that even though they had cleared the theory exams, they had not scored prescribed marks in practical exams within a margin of 5 to 10 marks.
The students have submitted before the High Court that even though the University had imposed certain conditions for conducting regular classes, it didn't relax the conditions in awarding marks in the practical exams. As a result, those students having a background in medical hospital facility had passed.
Now, the petitioner students would have to appear in all the papers including the theory papers once again. Thus, the petitioners had made representations to the University authorities, for the reassessment of practical marks which were awarded contrary to syllabus guidelines. However, such requests of the students were declined on the ground that no guidelines were prescribed for a reassessment of marks.
Pointing out that even though the Government extended all benefits to all students considering the Covid-19 pandemic, the students submitted that the University didn't consider the same and deprived the petitioner students of such benefits which amount to a violation of their fundamental rights.
Thus, approaching the High Court, the students prayed for a writ of mandamus declaring the action of respondents ( State Government, University, Controller fo Examination at University and Narayana Medical College) in awarding fewer marks in practical of final year MBBS Part-II examination as illegal, arbitrary, and contrary to the guidelines for MBBS courses and syllabus prescribed by the University. They also sought direction for the concerned authorities to award minimum qualifying marks in MBBS final Part-II practical examination and pass the medicos.
The University authorities, on the other hand, contended that the MBBS course is governed by the Apex medical body National Medical Commission (NMC) and thus the students undertaking such a professional course needs to acquire sufficient skills both in theory and practical examinations to undertake responsibilities of a physician of first contact who is capable of looking after the preventive, promotive, curative and rehabilitative aspects of medical care.
Pointing out that the final MBBS Part-II exams were conducted in strict compliance with NMC guidelines, the University authorities submitted that the students failed in clinical examination and that is why they need more clinical coverage as it is the professional examination and they did not acquire sufficient clinical skills to pass the examination which was assessed by six eligible examiners/teachers.
Further, they submitted that as the clinical examination in surgery was held for a period of ten days, therefore, erroneous/less awarding of marks by the teachers is not at all feasible as there were a sufficient number of teachers to examine on each day.
The counsel for the University further pointed out that NMC on 12.11.2020, in a letter directed to the Union Health Ministry had recommended that medical colleges across country must be reopened on or before 01.12.2020 for the MBBS students who are already pursuing the course and with the opening of medical colleges, in order to facilitate UG training, all medical college affiliated hospitals would need to have sufficient number of beds for non-COVID patients.
"So the petitioners cannot harp that they are not provided with sufficient teaching in theory and practicals," contended the counsel for the University.
Meanwhile, the counsel for NMC also argued in similar lines and emphasized that the regulations framed by the NMC and consequent guidelines issued by the university do not permit to consider the request of the petitioners to award marks liberally in practicals in spite of the poor performance of the students like petitioners.
After listening to all the contentions of both the parties, the High Court bench found force in the contentions of the University and NMC. "It is true that due to COVID-19 pandemic there was some disruption in conducting theory classes and practicals due to total lockdown. However, the recommendations made by the NMC to the Ministry of Healthy & Family Welfare, Government of India, vide its letter dated 12.11.2020, a copy of which is filed along with counter affidavit, would show that the NMC has strongly recommended that medical colleges across the country should be reopened on or before 01.12.2020 for MBBS students who are already pursuing their course," noted the Court.
Opining that the NMC, Central and State Governments had taken necessary steps for reopening of medical colleges by 01.12.2020, the Court further observed,
"Besides, online teaching was already going on by that time. Therefore, the petitioners cannot harp that they were deprived of valuable teaching and training and that was the sole reason for their failure in the practicals."
Pointing out that none of the students throughout the country had challenged the holding of the exams on the ground that through virtual teaching methodology, they could not understand the subjects, the bench further clarified,
"So, at the outset, the petitioners cannot now clamour that online teaching system had had adverse impact on their grasping power and thereby they failed in the examination. When holding of examinations is not challenged, the petitioners cannot attribute virtual teaching method as the cause for their failure and on that ground they cannot seek for awarding marks liberally to get through the practical exams."
Further noting that the "Regulation on Graduate Medical Education (Amendment) 2019" framed by the NMC do not contain any provision to award marks liberally in some contingencies, the Court denied directing the University and NMC to award marks to the petitioners when seemingly there was no violation of any fundamental right or other statutory rights.
At this outset, the Court further held,
"The regulations would project that the aim of the medical profession is "help for all" and in that view, the sub-standard students cannot somehow be elevated to higher classes which would degenerate the medical profession."
To read the court order, click on the link below.