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Medical students studying in China: Delhi High Court seeks response from Ministry of External Affairs, National Medical Commission

The Bench asked the Centre and the National Medical Commission to act swiftly and sympathetically in the matter as it concerns the future of students. “This is a matter of student. Help under the law and slightly have liberal interpretation,” the Bench orally remarked.

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The Delhi High Court on Thursday sought a response from the Ministry of External Affairs, National Medical Commission (NMC), among others, upon a plea by around 150 medical students studying medicine in China, who are stuck here amid Covid-19 travel restrictions, to allow them to undergo physical training in India.

The Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued notice in the petition by the students alleging that they are being denied the opportunity to undergo physical training which is a mandatory criterion for grant of permanent registration to foreign medical graduates wishing to practice in India and posted it for next hearing on March 21, 2022.

The Bench asked the Centre and the National Medical Commission to act swiftly and sympathetically in the matter as it concerns the future of students. “This is a matter of students. Help under the law and slightly have liberal interpretation,” the Bench orally remarked.

Filed by Advocates P.V. Dinesh, Ashwini Kumar Singh and Bineesh K., the plea highlights the plight of a number of students from India pursuing medicine at China, who returned to India on account of the Covid-19 pandemic but are unable to return to China to continue their studies given the continuous travel restrictions.

At the outset, in September, 2020, a circular was issued by the National Medical Commission recognizing online theory classes in medicine being given by Indian medical colleges only, which is required to be supplemented by practical and clinical training. The circular, however, does not give recognition to MBBS teaching through online medium by foreign medical institutions.

Furthermore, in November last year, the NMC issued notification enumerating Regulations governing Foreign Medical Graduates, stating that in order to seek registration to practice medicine in India, “the entire course, training and internship or clerkship shall be done outside India in the same foreign medical institution throughout the course of study and no part of medical training and internship shall be done in India or in any country other than country from where the primary medical qualification is obtained”.

The grievance of the petitioners is that during these unprecedented times arising out of the ongoing pandemic, they are neither being allowed to undergo physical training or internship in India nor are they being allowed to seek a transfer from their present medical institute in China to any other medical colleges abroad, which is putting their career at stake.

The plea point out that a communication was made to the NMC by the petitioners explaining the appalling situation faced by them, however they were informed that as the foreign medical institutes are outside the purview of the NMC, no guideline can be issued in this regard.

“The petitioners will be put to irreparable hardships if the above conditions in the Regulations are implemented in case of the students who are studying outside India,” claims the plea.

In light of the above, the plea seeks recognition by the NMC of the online classes being attended by the petitioners via their universities situated in China; as also declaration of Clause 2 of the 2021 Regulations to the extent that it stipulates that the training or internship has to be done in the same foreign medical institution throughout the course of study, as violative of the fundamental right to education of students. In addition, the plea prays for a meeting between the Ministry of External Affairs and the Chinese authorities for resolving the concerns of the petitioners.

The plea reads thus: “In the extra-ordinary circumstances that the country is witnessing on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Petitioners herein if allowed physical training shall be an asset for their home country India in the unprecedented medical emergency of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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