J. Venkatesan

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has upheld the Medical Council of India’s regulation requiring Indians who obtain an MBBS degree from colleges in Nepal to pass a screening test for grant of a certificate of registration to practise as doctors.

A Bench consisting of Chief Justice K. G. Balakrishnan and Justices P. Sathasivam and J. M. Panchal dismissed appeals and petitions filed by students who got the degrees from Manipal College of Medical Science, Pokhara, and the Institute of Medicine, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. It said: “The plea based on so-called discrimination has no substance and is, therefore, rejected.”

Yash Ahuja and others challenged the regulation and the Delhi High Court dismissed their petitions. The special leave petition is directed against this judgment and a writ petition was also filed questioning the regulation, which insists that they pass a screening test.

Commercial considerations

The MCI said that over a period it was noticed that a large number of private agencies sponsored Indian students for medical studies in institutions outside the country for commercial considerations.

“Such students also included the students who failed to fulfil the minimum eligibility requirements for admission to medical courses in India. Serious aberrations were noticed in the standards of medical education available in some of the countries which were not at par with the standards of medical education available in India.

Lack of uniformity

“Due to a lack of uniformity in the standards of medical education in various countries, it was decided to make a provision in the Act to enable the MCI to conduct a screening test in order to satisfy itself with regard to the adequacy of knowledge and skills acquired by citizens of India who obtain medical qualifications from universities or medical institutions outside India before they are granted registration to practise medicine in India.”

The Bench agreed with the MCI’s submission and noted that a “screening test is required to be undergone in the U.K., the U.S, etc, where doctors from abroad with a foreign degree intend to start medical practice and, therefore, adoption of a similar system in India cannot be regarded as unreasonable.”

The Bench said “the appellants failed to bring on record the facts, which would prima facie show that the standards of medical education prescribed either by the Government of Nepal or by the Nepal Medical Council are at par with the standards available in India.”

The appellants would have to appear for the test conducted by the National Board of Examination in terms of the NCI Screening Test Regulations, the Bench held.

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