2 Oct 2009

Screening Test mandatory for Foreign Medical Degree holders: Supreme Court

Coming hard on the foreign medical degree holders, the Supreme Court has recently upheld the validity of the Screening Test prescribed by the Medical Council of India over and above the foreign medical degree, holding that it had been provided

"because citizens of India, who have obtained medical qualifications from Universities or medical institutions outside India, would be entitled to practice medicine in India and they cannot be permitted to treat other citizens of India with their half-baked knowledge and jeopardize their precious lives."

The decision came in the wake of the challenge by certain Indian citizens (who had obtained medical degrees from outside India) to the essential screening test prescribed by the Medical Council of India "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 practice medicine in India." 

The challenge was that the imposition of 'Screening Test' was unwarranted as the degrees had been obtained from the colleges in the countries whose medical degrees were recognized by the Medical Council of India under the scheme of reciprocity. 

It was also argued that "if the provisions of the Screening Test Regulations 2002 are made applicable to the Indian citizens who have obtained medical qualifications included in the Second Schedule to the Act, a serious anomaly would arise in as much as all those students who are similarly placed as the appellants but who are not Indian citizens would be entitled to be enrolled on any Medical Register maintained by a State Medical Council or to have their names entered in the Indian Medical Register without undergoing the screening test whereas the appellants and other students who are Indian citizens would not be entitled to such a privilege without qualifying screening test which would be discriminatory and as such classification cannot be sustained in view of Article 14 of the Constitution".

The Medical Council of India, on the other hand, argued that under the scheme of the law, the Council was obligated in "going behind the degree for scrutinizing and evaluating the foreign medical qualification secured by a candidate seeking registration from the Council". It also pointed out to the Court that "screening test is required to be undergone in several countries like U.K., U.S.A., 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."

It was also explained to the Court that the background to the law being amended to this effect was that "over a period of time it had come to the notice of the legislature that a large number of private agencies had sponsored students for medical studies in the institutions outside India for commercial consideration who had even not fulfilled the minimum eligibility requirements and therefore the Act was amended pursuant to which regulations have been framed and the appellants who have acquired M.B.B.S. qualification from Kathmandu University mentioned in second schedule to the Act are asked to qualify the prescribed screening test in larger interest of public but are not debarred from starting any medical practice in India in accordance with law"

The decision was fulled by the fact that the degree holders from foreign colleges included the "students who failed to fulfill the minimum eligibility requirements for admission to medical courses in India" and also that "serious aberrations were noticed in the standards of medical education available in some of the foreign countries which were not at par with the standards of medical education available in India."

The Court took note of the power of the Medical Council of India (under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956) to negotiate with foreign authorities for recognition of medical qualifications granted by medical institutions in other countries which have a  scheme of reciprocity with India. In particular, the Supreme Court examined the conditions imposed by the Medical Council of India for recognition of degrees offered by medical colleges in Nepal and also took note of the fact that the Medical Council of India has not been particularly pleased with the infrastructural and other facilities available in certain medical colleges in Nepal from where most of the citizens challenging the screening test had obtained their medical degrees.  

The Court also recorded that the challengers had "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 Nepal Medical Council are at par with the standards of medical education available in India."

1 comment:

marry said...

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