Medicos Wishing To Study Abroad Must Take NEET: Delhi HC Upholds MCI’s Regulation [Read Judgment]

Medicos Wishing To Study Abroad Must Take NEET: Delhi HC Upholds MCI’s Regulation [Read Judgment]

Grants one-time relief to those unable to qualify NEET

The Delhi High Court has upheld the MCI’s amended regulation mandating those desirous of studying abroad to appear in and qualify NEET.

In a major relief to many medicos desirous of studying abroad but who could not qualify NEET, the court also did away with the one-time exemption from taking NEET to grant eligibility certificate (without insisting on NEET results) only to those who did not attempt the test (after the amendment) holding the same  to be “unfair” and directed the MCI to grant eligibility certificate to those candidates also who appeared in NEET but did not qualify.

A bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and AK Chawla said the MCI’s amendment of the eligibility regulations to require every candidate desirous of studying abroad to also qualify in the NEET as a precondition to apply for eligibility certificate cannot be faulted.

“This court is of the opinion that the MCI’s amended regulations, mandating that those desirous of studying abroad, had to appear and qualify in NEET has direct nexus with the quality of professionals who—or many of who would—wish to practise the medical profession and seek enrolment in the State register, for that purpose. It is now essential that every wishing to secure admission to any medical college in India has to appear and clear the NEET. Though at the first blush, those wishing to study abroad are a separate class, nevertheless, after the amendment of 2001 (to the IMC Act) and the introduction of Section 13 (4B), every Indian citizen wishing to study abroad has to secure an eligibility certificate from the Central Government. Such a requirement is neither unreasonable nor arbitrary,” said the bench.

Relying on various judgments in cases such as Principal, Patna College, Patna and Ors. v. Kalyan Srinivas Raman; State of Kerala v. Kumari T.P. Roshana and Anr., Medical Council of India v. State of Karnataka and Ors. and Dr. Preethi Srivastava v. State of M.P.,  the bench said, “The primary decision of an academic regulatory authority, if made within bounds of statute with the object of achieving academic or professional excellence, cannot in the absence of palpable or manifest arbitrariness, be interfered with by courts in judicial review. Consequently, the challenge on the ground of arbitrariness and unreasonableness fails.”

The bench said so while deciding the petitions challenging the validity of amendments to the Foreign Medical Institution Regulations, 2002 and the Screening Test Regulations, 2002 made by MCI.

The amendments introduced by MCI required candidates to pass the NEET as a precondition for studying abroad; the screening test regulations too were consequentially amended to prescribe that in addition to possessing the primary medical qualification, the student also had to possess the eligibility certificate showing that she or he had qualified in NEET. The petitioners complained that these requirements were arbitrary.

The petitioners complained that in this background, MCI issued the impugned notification dated 1 March 2018, making an amendment to the screening test regulations and also eligibility requirement for taking admission in an undergraduate medical course in a foreign medical institution.

The petitioners said, on 8 March 2018, the MCI issued a public notice in the newspaper informing the public at large, more particularly, students seeking admission for a medical course in foreign universities. This publication was done one day before the last date of registration for NEET, i.e., 9 March 2018. Many students were taken by surprise and many students were not even aware of such notification and such change in procedure.

They argued that foreign medical universities and medical colleges do not come under the supervision of MCI and consequently it cannot formulate rules for admission to such foreign medical universities and the requirement of students wishing to study abroad also having to qualify in NEET is discriminatory, because it does not sub-serve the object of ensuring quality medical education.

It was submitted that each foreign medical universities and colleges have their own entrance test and their own set pattern of admission and there is no requirement of NEET as an eligibility criterion or a condition precedent for applying to foreign medical universities and colleges.

The second challenge of the petitioners was to the two exemption circulars—exempting candidates who have already proceeded abroad from taking NEET and the other circular exempting candidates who did not appear in the NEET due to the amendment to the regulation at the last moment.

“In this court’s opinion, the classification sought to be made between those who did not appear and those who appeared, but did not qualify, is not justified in the circumstances. Once the regulations required that candidates who were to proceed abroad after 31st May, 2018 had to qualify in NEET, to secure an eligibility certificate (i.e., after the first clarification, having regard to the terms of the eligibility regulations) a further division of those who did not appear (on the assumption that all of them could not appear because they were unaware) and those who appeared, but could not clear in the examination, was not justified.

“The second exemption (dated 14th September, 2018) was premised on the short notice given to candidates, at least partly. It is undeniable that when the public notice – after the amendment was issued, i.e. on 8th March, 2018, the students had to scramble to fill the forms for NEET; the last date was 9th March, 2018.” said the bench.

“Having done so, they had little time left to prepare. In these circumstances, as between those who chose not to appear in NEET and those who did (but could not qualify) the latter category did abide by the regulations. That has now become a millstone around their neck; their inability to qualify in the NEET (because of the shortage of time available) resulted in their inability to clear the test.

“On the other hand, all those who stood outside the process (regardless of whether they were aware or not aware) have benefitted from their failure and omission to adhere to the law. This, in the opinion of the court, has resulted in unfairness upon the petitioners and those like them who at least abided by the rules and regulations. In these peculiar circumstances, the denial of the one-time exemption to those who could not qualify, but appeared in NEET, has resulted in unfairness. Both categories (those who appeared but failed to qualify and those who did not appear) fall in the same class, i.e. candidates who did not qualify in NEET after 31st May, 2018. To grant eligibility certificate (without insisting on NEET results) only to those who did not attempt the test, therefore, was unfair,” the bench observed.

The court, thus, held that the petitioners were entitled to the same treatment as was given to those who did not appear in NEET.

“…As a one-time measure, the respondents are directed to ensure that eligibility certificates are issued to all students who appeared in NEET (including the petitioners) but did not qualify the test. The MCI is also directed to ensure that consequential order and relief is given in the screening test regulations to those categories of students, entitled to the benefit of the present judgment; such consequential orders shall also be issued in respect of those covered by the previous two exemption notices (dated 23rd April, 2018 and 14th September, 2018).

“The eligibility certificates shall be made available to such students, within one week from today, subject to such students complying with the formalities spelt out in the second notice (dated 14th September, 2018),” it ordered.

Read the Judgment Here