Non-practising doctors engaged in research should get NORI: Bombay High Court
Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has recently made an exception for medical research scholars as it granted a No Obligation to Return to India (NORI) certificate to a 27-year old doctor who wishes to pursue research settle down in the US after obtaining a green card.
Directing the Centre to issue a NORI certificate to the doctor within five weeks the division bench comprising of Justices R D Dhanuka and R I Chagla clarified that the Union government's policy of not issuing a NORI certificate to medical degree holders wishing to obtain a Green Card in the US, cannot be made applicable to research scholars who don't intend to practice medicine.
"The petitioner intends to carry out research work exclusively in the US and has undertaken to never practice clinical medicine either in India or in the US. In our view, the said policy is not applicable to a research scholar not intending to practice medicine in India or abroad," the court said as it accepted the undertaking by the doctor that she would not be practising medicine in India or in the US and would only do research work.
The court passed its order on a petition filed by Vaishnav, who is presently in New York, challenging a letter issued by the Under Secretary (Scholarship), Department of Higher Education of the Ministry of Education rejecting her application for a NORI certificate, adds PTI.
A NORI certificate is issued by the home country to an applicant, certifying that he or she is under no obligation to return to the home country.
The petitioner completed her MBBS degree from the D Y Patil college in Maharashtra in 2017, after which she accepted an internship at a hospital in the US and applied for a J-1 visa (research scholar visa). When the same was granted, Vaishnav travelled to the US.
The petitioner in her plea said that the US rules do not permit a person to reside there on the J-1 visa for more than five years and when she applied for a Green Card, she was asked to furnish a NORI certificate.
As per the plea, the certificate was required to waive the Home Residence Requirement imposed by the US, under which persons holding J-1 visa are required to return to India and stay for two years after completion of studies in the US.
In March 2020, the petitioner applied for a NORI certificate, but her application was rejected in July on the ground that such certificates were not issued to medical professionals.
Vaishnav in her plea claimed that she did not intend to practice medicine and was a research scholar, and said she was willing to surrender her license to practice medicine in India.
The Union government in its response to the plea said a policy decision was taken to not issue NORI certificates to doctors and medical degree holders, as a large number of them migrate to other countries resulting in shortage in India.
Appearing for the Union government, advocate R G Govilkar argued that NORI certificate has not been issued to any medical degree holder since August 2011, except in cases where the applicant is more than 65 years of age.
He further submitted that the policy does not make any distinction between medical practitioners and research scholars
The Centre while rejecting the application relied on a policy decision that said NORI certificates cannot be issued to medical practitioners and medical degree holders, as they then migrate to other countries resulting in dearth of doctors in India.
The court in its judgment, however, noted that the petitioner had completed her MBBS degree from a private college and accepted the undertaking given by her that she would not be practising medicine in India or in the US and would only do research work.
Rejecting the Centre's contention, the Court noted that the scarcity of doctors in India "has no significance in the facts of the case and more particularly, in view of the undertaking" given by the petitioner that she will not practice medicine in India or the US and would only do research work, adds the Times of India.
"There is no obligation imposed by the Indian law, rules or governing authorities mandating that the petitioner is required to practice as a doctor in India for any period of time," the court said.
The bench further stated that the NORI certificate issued to the petitioner must include a clause that if she starts practising medicine in the US, the certificate will stand cancelled and she will be required to return to India.
"The respondents could thus not have refused to issue NORI on the grounds of her case not falling under the exception carved out in the policy...the respondents can impose a condition in the NOC...that in case the petitioner starts practising medicine in the US, the NORI would stand cancelled and she would have to come back to India," the bench was quoted saying by TOI.
Medical Dialogues had earlier reported a similar case where two twin sisters had moved to the Bombay High Court as they sought NORI certificate in order to pursue research abroad. While considering the plea by the sisters, who were both MBBS doctors, the court had instructed the Central Government to reconsider their submission.