The Calcutta High Court has recently set aside the nominations made to post-graduate medical courses in the Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education & Research (IPGEM&R) by a private Trust by opining that such a process turns a blind eye to merit and that it would entail the public being on the receiving end of sponsoring future-doctors without knowing whether they are the best of the pick.
Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya was adjudicating upon a batch of petitions which contended that the nominations made by the Rai Bahadur Seth Sukhlal Karnani Chandanmull Karnani Trust to post-graduate medical courses to the IPGEM&R which is a Government hospital were made dehors the Medical Council of India Postgraduate Medical Education Regulations, 2000 (MCI Regulations, 2000).
It was further contended that the people nominated by the private Trust had scored lower marks compared to the petitioners in NEET–PG, 2021 and hence their nominations were contrary to the MCI Regulations, 2000.
Pursuant to the rival submissions, the Court noted that the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 as amended and the Post-graduate Medical Education Regulations, 2000, particularly Regulation 9 thereunder, not only reinforce a unitary and single-point entry for admission to PG medical courses by way of a common eligibility test, but also that the order of merit cannot be tinkered with. It was further opined that that the method of assessment used by the Trust remains shrouded in secrecy.
Reliance was also placed on the Supreme Court judgment in Christian Medical College, Vellore Association v. Union of India wherein the Apex Court had had cautioned against individual examinations conducted by institutions and had further observed that the system is riddled with unscrupulous elements encouraging dubious means to be adopted to defeat merit.
Opining that there seems to be a parallel selection process outside the recommended statutory framework, the Court underscored,
"There is no intelligible benchmark disclosed by the Trust as to the reason why the private respondents were recommended for admission despite having lower ranks compared to the petitioners in the NEET - PG Test. The assessment hence is a parallel selection process outside the recommended statutory framework and is subversive of the Act and the Regulations. The Trust has not only turned a blind eye to merit but has doffed its hat to the dilution of merit. The State is hence precluded by law to accept the recommendations."
The Court also observed that such an exclusive selection of candidates which is unmonitored within the recommended guidelines would have particularly dangerous ramifications when the selection pertains to doctors and medical officers. It was further opined that the existing statutory framework was devised to safeguard the transparency of the selection process and to prevent random picking of candidates through parallel channels without due regard to the merit position of the unified examination test.
Reference was also made to the Supreme Court judgment in Faculty Association of All India Institute of Medical Sciences v. Union of India wherein it had been held that there could be no compromise with merit at the superspeciality stage.
Opining that the public should not bear the brunt of doctors who have received admission without merit, the Court enumerated,
"A distinction should be made between the facts of this case and awards and scholarships given by private bodies, some of which are globally recognised. These instances of private rewards/sponsorship are not governed by a unitary statutory framework regulating the selection and admission of the candidates. These are essentially private grants for sponsoring the particular course, that is, the private body is itself the sponsorer. Not only is the present case concerned with a statute governing the admission of candidates to medical courses without any deviation from the same being permitted, the Trust's obligations ends with the recommendations. It is the State which bankrolls the recommended candidates. The burden is ultimately hence on the public who are ironically put at the receiving end of sponsoring future-doctors without knowing whether they are the best of the pick."
Accordingly, the Court set aside the nominations made by the respondents.
Case Title: Sri Daksh Singhal & Ors v. The State of West Bengal and Others
Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Cal) 258