Manali Barde, a medical student pursuing MBBS at the Government Medical College at Akola had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench) after the Maharashtra Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) rejected her request for transfer to a medical college in Nagpur on 20 August, 2020. The student had sought transfer claiming she suffered from allergic bronchitis with chronic bronchial asthma leaving her breathless and highly susceptible to Covid-19.
DMER rejected her request on the grounds that the student’s condition did not fulfil point 13(ii) of the Brochure for Transfer (after 1st MBBS) of Medical Students in the State of Maharashtra – which states that only students with permanent disability of 40% and above are eligible for transfer, provided they also share medical records attested and signed by the state Medical Referral Board. Moreover, DMER also stated that the student did not apply within the application deadline for the batch of 2019-2020 and the application was not sent in the prescribed format.
The High Court upheld DMER’s decision to reject the transfer application, it acknowledged that DMER’s decision to define ‘genuine ground’ in this case was based on Section 2(Zc) of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 and thus had statutory backing to it.
However, the DMER’s rules have been framed based on the Medical Council of India’s (MCI) Regulation that only allows migration on a ‘genuine ground’, subject to the availability of vacancy in the college, where migration is sought, and upon fulfilling other requirements laid down in the Regulations.
The court also expressed that the lack of clear definition of the term genuine ground in the MCI regulations leaves room for misrepresentation and could lead to misuse and abuse by the authorities. The court stated that ‘for what one person may consider to be a genuine ground, may not be so, in the eyes and perspective of another, reasons being varied, depending upon the viewpoint of the person considering the expression’. Note 1 of the MCI regulations, which is applicable across India empowers States to bring its own guidelines, to define the parameters.
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However, this leads to many state DMERs framing different rules on the same subjects leaving room for discontent among students and lack of uniformity in policies across the country. The Bombay High Court in its judgement directed the MCI, now the National Medical Commission to frame rules that clearly define what constitutes genuine ground so as to bring about uniformity in framing guidelines at the state level. It also stated that this ‘would not only avoid contrary meanings, but would also save the students from the vagaries of litigation and the time spent, due to pursuing them, which could be beneficially spent in the pursuit of the profession for which they are preparing themselves.’
The lack of clear definition in rules and regulations does create confusion among those it intends to help. Medical education is heavily regulated in India, factors like competition for limited number of seats and the need to ensure quality education for individuals going into professions that determine the health and wellbeing of individuals and society in general does warrant utmost attention and detail.
Yet, the lack of clear definitions of certain provisions and terms adds to the woes of students in specialisation courses like medicine. Moreover, the red-tape and bureaucracy involved in performing certain tasks, that include migration or internship application distracts students from studies and training.
Impact of the Judgement
While the desired outcome for transfer to Nagpur from Akola eluded the student petitioner, the judgement however highlights the need for regulatory authorities like the NMC to take cognisance of inconsistencies in the rules. It suggests that rules and notifications must be strengthened to prevent loose interpretation, thereby affecting the lives of medical students.
This also necessitates facilitating reforms that reduce the red-tape faced by medical students and not depend on the judiciary for direction. The Bombay High Court Judgement to the NMC clearly establishes this need and redirects the NMC to initiate this change.
The judgement does not give the NMC a timeline to clearly define genuine ground, which may prevent the NMC from acting in earnest. However, with the next batch of MBBS graduates enrolled and state DMEs preparing for the next round of transfers, we can hope that the NMC defines this clause at the earliest.
Highlights of the Judgement
The court had made the following observations that should prompt the NMC to take immediate action in clarifying what constitutes genuine ground –
‘Thus the vacuum created in Regulation 6 of MCI, in absence of the expression ‘genuine grounds’, being defined, would be permissible to be filled in, by laying down requisite parameters/criteria by use of the power/authority as conferred by Note-1 of Regulation 6 of MCI and that is what has been done by the DMER/State by framing the guideline No.13 in its Brochure, setting out parameters for the above expression. That being the position, the contention of Dr. Warunjikar, learned Counsel for the petitioner that the respondents did not have any power or authority to frame a criteria or guideline, is clearly without any merits whatsoever.’
‘each State Government/University/Institution, would be entitled to frame guidelines for grant of NOC or migration, subject to the provisions of the Regulations. This would automatically lead to different guidelines, being framed by different State Governments/Universities/Institutions, thereby leading to a w.p.st.9800 of 2020.odt 27 lack of uniformity in the policy of migration. It would thus be proper, if the MCI defines and sets the parameters or criteria of the expression “genuine grounds” as occurring in MCI Regulation 6 (1), so as to have a uniformity for its application throughout the country.. We hope that appropriate steps would be taken in this regard by the MCI as soon as possible’.
For Full Copy of the Judgement CLICK HERE
For Copy of the Brochure for Transfer (after 1st MBBS) of Medical Students in the State of Maharashtra – CLICK HERE