The Kerala High Court has sought the response of the National Medical Commission in a plea filed on behalf of 92 medical students studying in different universities in China seeking practical training and internship facilities in India till the travel restrictions to China are lifted.
Justice V.G Arun directed the NMC to file an affidavit communicating the Commission's stand on the issue.
"Standing counsel for the National Medical Commission shall cause an affidavit to be filed by a responsible officer regarding the Commission's stand as to whether petitioners can be permitted to attend classes in the Medical Colleges as a temporary measure till they are able to return to China for attending regular classes in the respective institutions."
The plea was moved by a registered Association formed to ensure the welfare of Indian students pursuing their medical education abroad, particularly in China, on behalf of the said 92 students. These students were forced to return to India during the initial outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Some of them are now pursuing their 5th year in their respective universities in China through online mode.
Having imposed travel and lockdown restrictions in all its major cities, it is highly unlikely that China would accommodate its international students back in the universities until the nation reaches the stage of zero pandemic.
Their course structure has five years of theory with practical and clinical training and an additional one year of compulsory internship. But due to the pandemic, these students have been continuing their courses online, and have not been able to avail the required practical and clinical training.
Meanwhile, the National Medical Commission issued an order in 2020 declaring that online classes for Indian medical students are considered valid only if they are supplemented with practical courses when the colleges re-open. Pursuant to this, they did everything possible to supply practical training for students from Indian universities. However, no such remedy has been given to the medical students pursuing the course in China under similar circumstances.
Similarly, the petitioner appearing through Senior Advocate George Poonthottam also pointed out that neither the NMC nor the Government had passed any order accepting the online mode of education undergone by the said students. On these grounds, it was contended that the government and NMC had washed their hands off any responsibility towards the completion of their education.
Thereafter, as per Foreign Medical Graduate (FMGL) Regulation, 2021 it was mandated that students studying abroad have to undergo a course of theory, practical and clinical training equivalent to MBBS of India to practice in India. Thereafter, by order dated 8th February 2022, NMC declared that it does not recognize medical courses done only by online mode.
While the petitioner does not undermine the importance of practical training in the field, it was argued that the prejudicial approach of the respondents with a singular mind not to help the petitioner, amounts to infringement of Article 14.
It was further pointed out that Chinese Universities recognize the internship completed in the home countries of the students as long as the hospital has WHO-approved standards. However, the Indian Commission had not provided them with an opportunity to complete their practical training or join for an Internship.
In the backdrop of another imminent pandemic wave and the dearth of medical professionals in the country and its deplorable doctor-patient ratio as per WHO, they argued that it was unjust to the community and to the students to not regard the plight of these medical students and provide them with an appropriate remedy.
As such, the plea sought a direction to the respondent authorities that the said students be allowed to avail practical training and join a compulsory internship at any of the medical colleges in the country.
It was also prayed that the Commission approves the validity of the online classes attended by the petitioners since their return to India and to consider the degree obtained by the students to be at par and equivalent to the degree issued by the Indian Medical Universities.
Case Title: Parents Association of Foreign Medical Graduates v. Union of India & Ors.