The Supreme Court on Friday asked the National Medical Commission why it is proposing to delete MD Radiation Oncology as a en eligible feeder speciality qualification for super specialty course of DM Medical Oncology.
The Court has asked the NMC to file its reply and kept the matter in the second week of July.
A vacation bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Bela Trivedi was considering a writ petition filed by MD Radiation Oncologists and MD Anaesthesiologists challenging the changed examination pattern for NEET-SS 20222 which would now consist of 150 questions from the general/basic component of the primary feeder broad specialty subject and from all sub- specialty/systems/component of that primary feeder broad specialty subject.
The petitions are also aggrieved by the draft Postgraduate Medical Education Regulations, 2021 published by National Medical Commission which proposes to delete MD radiation oncology/radiotherapy as an eligible feeder specialty qualification for the super specialty course of DM Medical Oncology.
When the matter was taken on Friday, Senior Advocate Devadutt Kamat, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that exam, which was originally scheduled on June 18, has been deferred and the new dates are yet to be notififed. In view of this, the bench noted that there is no urgency to hear the matter during the vacations.
Kamat also brought to the attention of the bench the issue of deletio of MD Radiation Oncology.
"There was an issue regarding deletion of MD radiation oncology/radiotherapy as an eligible feeder specialty qualification for the super specialty course of DM Medical Oncology. The experts say that this has been deleted wrongly. Please ask them to take a decision on that. Students are left on the lurch. NMC has proposed the draft regulation. Acting on the students representation, they constituted a Committee and the Committee said that this is wrongful. Then they constituted another Committee, which also said the same thing.Please ask them to take a decision as to whether the deletion is correct or not. In the draft regulation, they have deleted it", Kamat submitted.
"Why are you removing MD Radiation oncology?", Justice Chandrachud asked.
The NMC's counsel submitted that the decision has been taken based on expert opinion and said that a reply can be filed.
"Let them file a reply. We'll keep it on 2nd week of reopening", Justice Chandrachud asked.
Justice Trivedi asked the National Board of Examination why the exams are postponed. "Why has the exam been postponed? There's a lot of uncertainty, how would they be prepared?", Justice Trivedi said.
It has been argued in the petition that the proposed deletion of MD (Radiation Oncology) as one of the eligible feeder specialty qualifications for the super-speciality course of DM Medical Oncology has sent "shockwaves" in the entire fraternity of Radiation Oncologists in India.
Contending that the erstwhile pattern had a paper with 40% mixed questions from all the broad specialties and 60% questions from Critical Care (i.e., the super-specialty subject) which had ensured a level playing field, the petitioners have contended that the new pattern was forcing all the candidates from the broad specialties to write a single paper which will have 100% questions from General Medicine.
"There will be no questions from broad specialties of the other four post-graduate branches. The pattern is not just a waste of time and effort for all those who have prepared for Critical Care but also grossly biased against few broad specialties, particularly in favour of MD Medicine in so far as the choice of options is far greater vis-a-vis the choices available to either MD Radiation Oncology or MD Anaesthesia.
The new examination scheme is making some candidates write a paper which has no questions from their postgraduate broad speciality and they will have to compete with candidates who have 100% questions from their postgraduate syllabus/ broad speciality," the petition states.
Terming the change in pattern as "arbitrary, illogical, unreasonable and highly partial," petitioners have contended that this is complete waste of time, resources and effort put by the candidates who have been preparing for a super speciality subject for years.
"Having a uniform qualifying percentile when the question paper is identical for every candidate is perfectly logical, but to do so when the question papers admittedly differ across groups, yet conferring an undue comparative advantage upon some of them as delineated above, is patently unfair. To have the same qualifying percentile for a candidate of MD (General Medicine) and MD (Anaesthesia) towards admission in DM Critical Care or for a candidate of MD (General Medicine) and MD (Radiation Oncology) towards admission in DM (Oncology) would be the definition of perversity and violation of the guarantee against non-arbitrariness protected under Article 14 of the Constitution of India," the plea further states.
It may be noted that after being faced with harsh criticism from the Supreme Court over the eleventh-hour changes brought to the NEET-SS 2021 pattern, the Central Government on October 5, 2021 had told the Court that the revised pattern will be implemented only from next year.
Against this backdrop, the petitioners have sought issuance of directions to restrain the NBE from excluding / deleting MD Radiation Oncology / MD Radiotherapy from the eligible feeder specialties for the super specialty course of DM Medical Oncology for NEET SS 2022 and have further sought for restoring the scheme/pattern for the exam.
The petition has been filed through AOR Javedur Rahman.
Case Title: Dr Richa Verma v. National Board of Examination