The Supreme Court Friday refused to direct the medical universities to cancel or postpone the final year Post Graduate exams on the ground that the examinee-doctors have been engaged in COVID-19 duty. A vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and M R Shah said it cannot pass any general order to all the universities not to conduct or postpone the examination.
In the circumstances, we do not deem it appropriate to pass any orders, particularly in the absence of the Universities. There can be no question of any order on the National Medical Commission when the concerned universities have been given the liberty to decide the time and the method of examination taking into consideration the pandemic situation in their area, the bench said.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by 29 doctors seeking directions to concerned authorities to waive the final Post Graduate Medical Examination (PGME) on the ground that they did not get time to prepare for the examination as they were engaged in COVID duty. They have also sought directions to promote them as Senior Residents and to the Post-Doctoral level on completion of the tenure of the PG courses, without clearing any examination.
The bench said, There can be no question of this Court passing any order directing the respondent authorities to waive examination or to promote and/or upgrade the doctors as Senior Residents or to the Post-Doctoral level without clearing the final postgraduate examination. The top court noted that the NMC had already issued an advisory in April asking the universities in the country to take the COVID situation into consideration while announcing the dates for final year examinations.
“We have interfered where it was possible like postponing by one month the INI CET examination conducted by AIIMS, New Delhi, where we have found that there was no justification in fixing the date for the examination without giving appropriate time to students to prepare," the bench said.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the petitioner doctors said that NMC has issued advisories to the universities with regard to postgraduate course/ examinations and direction be issued that there should be some relaxation in norms and criteria fixed as per policy decision in relation to medical education at the postgraduate stage.
To this the bench said, It is impermissible for Courts exercising powers under Article 32 and/or Article 226 of the Constitution of India to interfere with or regulate policy matters or to sit in appeal therefrom. The top court said the dates for the final PG exams have not yet been fixed and moreover an advisory has been issued by NMC on April 12, that all the concerned medical universities may decide the time and the method of examination taking into consideration the pandemic situation in their area. There are numerous universities. It is expected that the different universities would fix different dates taking relevant factors into consideration. The universities are not even parties to this writ petition, the bench said.
It said the court was informed that some of the universities have fixed the dates for the examinations but such varsities have not been made parties and there are no pleadings on record in this regard. Hegde said that in the alternative he is seeking that NMC be directed to issue directions to all the universities to give reasonable time to students for preparing for the examination. We don’t know what could be the reasonable time for preparing for the examination. How can the court decide the reasonable time? Everyone may have their reasonable time. Let the university decide on the basis of the advisory of NMC as per the pandemic situation prevailing in their area, the bench said.
The top court said, In a vast country like India, the pandemic situation cannot be the same. In April-May the situation in Delhi was very bad but now it is hardly 200 cases per day. In Karnataka, however, the situation is not that good even now. Therefore, we cannot pass any general order without hearing the universities.
The bench said it is expected that the universities concerned will at their discretion give reasonable time, but it is at the same time not possible for this Court to say what should be the reasonable time to be granted. The Writ Petition is accordingly not maintainable and is accordingly dismissed, the bench said. Advocate Gaurav Sharma, appearing for NMC, said that not all doctors were engaged in COVID duty and the council had issued an advisory in April to all the universities to hold the examination after taking into consideration the COVID situation in their respective areas.