The Delhi High Court recently issued notices to the Central Government and the National Board of Examination in a plea against extension of training period of Post Doctoral Medical Students purportedly due to the nationwide lockdown.
While hearing the case via video-conferencing, the bench of Justice C. Hari Shankar refused to grant any ad interim relief to the Petitioner-students while stating that he was prima facie 'not convinced' with the grounds of challenge raised by the Petitioners.
Further, he added, "given the necessity for optimum availability of doctors during the present COVID pandemic, and bearing in mind the interests patients, the balance of convenience would also militate against grant of interim relief to the petitioners."
This observation was made after the Centre pointed out that availability of the Petitioners, in the hospitals in which they are undergoing training, is essential and if their training is allowed be completed and they leave the hospitals, there will be an "exodus of 3156 doctors", which could adversely impact the treatment of patients, COVID sufferers and otherwise, during the currency of the present pandemic.
Stressing on the MHA notifications regarding functioning of hospitals during the pandemic, the Petitioners had argued that the work in hospitals continued as it is and hence it could not be said that "training of DNB/FNB residents has been adversely impacted by the COVID-2019 pandemic."
Disagreeing with this submission, Justice Hari Shakar observed that there is a "qualitative and quantitative difference" between functioning of hospitals and imparting of training to DNB/FNB students therein.
"It is not possible for this Court, as a writ court, to return a finding that there is, in fact, no adverse impact on training of DNB/FNB students merely because, even during the currency of the COVID pandemic, hospitals continue to function. The extent to which imparting of training to DNB and FNB students stands impacted by the COVID-2019 crisis, and the altered workload and manner of functioning of hospitals during the currency thereof, is entirely within the province of knowledge of the respondents. There is no reason for this Court to believe that the respondents are, without any justification, averring, in the impugned Public Notice, that the exercise of imparting of training to DNB and FNB students stands impacted during the COVID-2019 pandemic, and the crisis that has arisen as a consequence thereof," he observed.
The Petitioners had also argued that the extension of their doctoral programme was arbitrary inasmuch as the training period for 1st and 2nd year students was not extended.
Dispelling this argument the court held that the nature of training, which is required to be imparted to first and second year DNB students, cannot be automatically equated with the nature of training to be imparted to final year students.
"It is not for this Court to return a finding that the plea of difficulty, being faced in imparting training to final year DNB/FNB students, is belied by the fact that there is no extension of training in the case of first and second year students," the court held.
Further the Petitioners had argued that the extension of their training period will adversely affect their prospective jobs as they will still be undergoing training on their respective joining dates.
In this context the court said that though it "sympathized" with the Petitioners however, "the extraordinary and emergent situation, with which the country is faced, and which has necessitated the issuance of the impugned Public Notice, or the validity of the Public Notice, cannot be wished away merely because, as a consequence of the impugned Public Notice, certain students may find difficulties in joining jobs to which they have been appointed."
Accordingly the court held that given the pan-India impact of the impugned Public Notice, it would be appropriate to seek a response from the respondents. However, it remarked, "no case for grant of any ad interim relief, ex parte or otherwise, is made out."
"Counter affidavit, in response to the writ petition, be positively filed within a period of 10 days with advance copy to the petitioners, who may file rejoinder, if any, thereto, if any, at least one day prior to the next date of hearing," the court ordered while posting the matter for May 14.
Case Title: Dr. Devyesh J. Pathak & Ors. v. National Board of Examination & Ors.
Case No.: WP (C) 3005/2020
Quorum: Justice C. Hari Shankar
Appearance: Advocate Sahil Tagotra (for Petitioners); ASG Maninder Acharya with Standing Counsel for NBE Kirtiman Singh with Advocates Waize Ali Noor and Viplav Acharya, CGSC Anurag Ahluwalia and Advocate Viplav Acharya (for Respondents)
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