“University’s contention that students who studied in foreign countries are not meritorious can be said to be misconceived”

Can authorities discriminate between similarly situated persons on the ground of their having acquired qualification from different sources? No, the Madras High Court has said.

The question arose when a writ petition challenged a condition ‘non-stipendiary’ in the no-objection certificate given to a student by Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University to undergo the Compulsory Rotatory Resident Internship (CRRI) at Stanley Medical College (SMC) here.

Justice Vinod K. Sharma said that students from foreign universities, who had cleared examinations conducted by the National Board of Examinations (NBE), and students from other States undergoing CRRI formed one class.

Therefore, the authorities’ action in discriminating similarly situated persons could not be sustained, being violative of Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution.

In his petition, J. Denis Winston stated that he successfully completed MD (physician) course from Stavropol State Medical Academy in the Russian Federation, in June 2012. The institution was recognised by the Medical Council of India.

He was also successful in the screening test held by the NBE in September last year in the first attempt. He applied for NOC for CRRI. His request was accepted, but in the certificate he was shown as a ‘non-stipendiary’ candidate.

Mr. Winston challenged the condition and sought a direction to the authorities to pay him stipend of Rs.7,660 per month on a par with other interns of SMC. The condition was unjustified.

The university countered that the impugned condition was in compliance with government orders.

Principal Secretary, Health, said that candidates of other universities did not have the skills or standards of students of Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University and that the object of the training was to impart abundant clinical knowledge to students. The petitioner could not allege discrimination as he, along with foreign universities and students from other States, formed a separate class from interns, who had passed MBBS from colleges affiliated to Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University.

Allowing the petition, Mr. Justice Sharma did not accept the stand of the authorities. Once the petitioner was qualified from a recognised college, though in a foreign country, and had passed the NBE exam of the Medical Council of India.

He should be treated on a par with other MBBS students. Mr. Winston had the same qualification as other interns. The G.O.s on which reliance had been placed being violative of Article 14 deserved to be declared unconstitutional.

The university’s contention that students who had studied in foreign countries were not meritorious could safely be said to be totally misconceived, as they were required to pass the NBE exam to prove their knowledge and competence.

Quashing the condition ‘non-stipendiary,’ the Judge directed the authorities to pay the stipend to the petitioner.