The Supreme Court noted that over-ambitious parents and exploitative founders of infrastructure-deficient colleges have contributed to the decline and commercialisation of medical education. It also upheld the National Medical Commission's regulations requiring foreign medical graduates (FMGs) to meet certain requirements before practising medicine in India.
The laws were recently a source of contention in relation to Indian students who were obliged to return owing to the Ukraine conflict.
In a judgment issued in early May 2022, Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian maintained the regulatory validity of the National Medical Commission (Foreign Medical Graduate Licentiate) Regulations 2021 and the National Medical Commission (Compulsory Rotating Medical Internship) Regulations 2021.
The first requires FMGs to complete a minimum 54-month medical course, a 12-month internship in the same foreign medical institution, registration with a professional regulatory body competent to grant a license in the same foreign country, and a supervised 12-month internship in India after applying to the NMC. The second section outlines the stringent requirements for FMG internships in India.
Regulations Have Been Called into Question
Both sets of guidelines were being challenged in Supreme Court appeals as infringing on the public's right to health and the students' right to practice. The appellants contended that the rules impose an undue and unjustified burden on students wishing to pursue medical education abroad.
However, the bench was not convinced. According to Justice Ramasubramaniam's decision, while the country does need more doctors, it also needs qualified doctors, not people who have been trained by institutions abroad but only have their skills tested in their home country.
The problem of unregistered medical institutions and unskilled doctors, according to the court, was a century-old situation that was reflected in colonial regulations such as the Indian Medical Degrees Act of 1916.
The events that followed independence did not go well. According to Justice Ramasubramaniam, education experts agree that over-ambitious parents, helpless children, exploitative and unscrupulous founders of educational institutions lacking infrastructure, paralyzed regulatory bodies, and courts with the wrong sympathy have all contributed to the commercialization of education and the degradation of standards in education in general, and medical education in particular.
Steps Taken by Regulatory Authorities
The court called attention to the fact that whenever regulatory authorities attempted to close gaps in medical education and change the system, their efforts were met with legal challenges.
As observed by Justice Ramasubramaniam, the courts were sometimes persuaded by sympathy for the situation of individual students, not comprehending that the plight of the patients who went to them would rarely come to the fore and that such verdicts would never have an impact on the public.
Students should not enrol in foreign colleges that do not need a mandatory internship with first aid certification.
The rush to become competent medical practitioners, according to Justice Ramasubramanian, cannot take them to countries where shortcuts to success are offered.
According to the court, these two NMC regulations merely set the minimal conditions to be met by people who study in those overseas institutions yet wish to practice in India. The court dismissed the contention that the laws infringe on other countries' sovereignty.
While dismissing the appeals, Justice Ramasubramaniam stated that the argument that the country needs more doctors and that by restricting the registration of foreign medical graduates, fundamental rights of professionals under Article 19(1)(g) and fundamental rights of citizens under Article 21 are jeopardized should only be asked to be dismissed.
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Source: The Hindu