Resident doctors pursuing postgraduate courses have sought intervention of the Supreme Court to get exemption from final examination due to lack of time for preparation of the exam owing to their continuous service to C-19 patients.
The petitioners also sought direction from the apex court for promoting them as senior resident doctors and post-doctoral students as soon as the scheduled tenure completion of two or three years along with pay scale and other allowances. They also requested the court to set up a joint expert panel to look into their appeals.
A group of 29 resident doctors pursuing PG courses in a petition recently appealed to the Supreme Court to direct the central government to issue mandatory direction to National Medical Commission (NMC) for waiving their final examination and evaluating them based on the past record and C-19 duty.
The petitioners stated that they can be awarded an MD/MS degree based on their clinical acumen which has been proved efficiently by them during ongoing pandemic. Moreover, there are a considerable proportion of resident doctors who would be C-19 positive already and thus, unable to appear for the exams due to ill health or prepare for the exams effectively while discharging C-19 duties, said petitioners.
They added that conferring degree to PG resident doctors would add to the pool of healthcare personnel.
The petitioners further said NMC in a notification on December 12, 2020 had relaxed the provisions regarding the submission of postgraduate thesis owing to the pandemic. Hence the Commission can do away with the exam process by exercising its discretionary power, they pointed out.
The petitioners had represented their grievances to NMC through their respective associations and had sought waiver of their final exam. However, they have not received any reply.
They challenged the notifications issued by NMC on April 22, 2021 and April 27, 2021 and appealed to the court to declare the notifications unconstitutional and ultra vires.
Earlier, the final year PG students used to get a study leave of about two months for preparing for their final examination but owing to pandemic duty they have not been given even one day for preparation. The notifications failed to recognize the catastrophic impact of absence of the final year PG residents in the nation’s fight against C-19 pandemic, if the final exams were to happen. In such circumstances NMC ought to do away with the passing marks i.e. 50 per cent, they added.
The commission in a notification on April 22, 2021 allowed the examiners from outside state to participate in the practical examination through video conferencing and directed the universities to decide the date, time and method of examination of PG resident doctors taking into consideration the pandemic situation in their area.
In a notification on April 27, 2021 it recognised the contribution of final year PG students in fight against C-19 and directed continuation of their residency period until fresh batches of PG students joined.
They argued that NMC’s decision of not waiving final exams of the final year PG resident doctors and not conferring them degree without final exams in the current pandemic situation contravened the fundamental rights of petitioners guaranteed under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
Taking exception to the Prime Minister’s recommendation to extend the services of final year resident doctors to ensure adequate manpower to tackle the unprecedented crisis being thrown up by the pandemic, the petitioners argued that the government and NMC have failed to realise that PG courses are for a fixed tenure which is two/three years and extensions are normally handed over as punishment for poor performance or for attendance shortage. It is akin to ‘imposed failure’, which is very demoralizing for the petitioners.
The petitioners who completed the three-year residency period pointed out that despite there being no provision for extension of residency, they are made to extend it without any legal basis.
In the face of a pandemic like C-19, it is incumbent upon the respondents i.e. government and NMC, as their fundamental duty, to frame sustainable and effective policies which looks after the interest of the PG resident doctors who have given their everything in fight against pandemic, they concluded.
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