The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked doctors, mostly final year medical students who had served as frontline workers in COVID-19 wards, to approach the government with a request to extend the deadline fixed for completion of their internship programme.
The completion of internship is a prerequisite for taking the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test - Post Graduate (NEET-PG) 2022.
These doctors, who risked their lives during the pandemic, want more time to complete their internship and take the NEET PG exam. The deadline for completing the internship is May 31.
However, COVID-19 duties and the fact that different States follow different timelines for their internship programmes have made it impossible for the petitioner-doctors to finish up in time for the exam on May 31.
"Many candidates such as the petitioners joined COVID-19 duties as a result of which the period of their internship was postponed... Besides, different institutions in different States have different dates for the commencement of the internship and many of those dates would end beyond the cut-off which has been prescribed, resulting in the loss of a year," senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for the petitioners, submitted.
Matter of policy
A Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud agreed to the seriousness of the issue but said the court would not intervene in such matter of policy. The Bench instead gave the petitioners liberty to directly write to the Health Ministry.
"Since the issue which has been raised by the petitioners require some element of determining facts as well as aspects of policy, we are of the view that the ends of justice will be met by permitting the petitioners to submit a representation to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare [MoHFW], setting out the nature of the hardship," the court said in the order.
The Bench then asked the Ministry to take a decision on the representation by the petitioners, if they ever get around to file it, within a week.
"We request that the representation be considered expeditiously within one week of its submissions. We may also clarify that in view of the fact that the court is leaving it open to the petitioners to move the MoHFW, no opinion is expressed on the merits of the matter," the Bench noted.
The petition had argued that the deadline of May 31, 2022, provided under Clause 4.1 and 4.2 of the Information Bulletin for NEET-PG 2022, was manifestly arbitrary as it deprived thousands of candidates to apply for the examination.
Another major issue raised in the petitions was postponement of the exam. The exam was earlier scheduled for March 12.
However, the government had, when the case came up for hearing in the apex court, postponed the exam.