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Delhi HC stays Single-Judge order providing one extra mark to FMGE candidates over disputed question

The Bench, while observing that there is a prima facie case as also the balance of convenience in favor of NBE, granted stay on the operation, implementation and execution of judgment and order dated July 5, 2021, till next date of hearing.

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The Delhi High Court on Friday granted interim stay on the implementation of the Single-Judge verdict, wherein the National Board of Examination (NBE) was directed to delete a disputed question from the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE) conducted in December 2020, and to award one extra mark to those candidates, who were assessed as having answered it incorrectly.

The Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued notice on appeal preferred by NBE, challenging the order of Justice Prateek Jalan, passed on July 5, 2021.

Senior Counsel Maninder Singh, representing NBE, informed that already, an expert committee of multi-members was constituted after receiving the objections, which had approved the answer of the question alleged to be incorrect. Relying on various judgements passed by the Supreme Court, he further submitted that the courts should not re-appraise the correctness of the question paper set by domain experts.

The Bench, while observing that there is a prima facie case as also the balance of convenience in favour of NBE, granted stay on the operation, implementation and execution of the July 5 judgement, till the next date of hearing, which is September 17.

As per the Indian Medical Council Act and the Screening Test Regulations 2002, persons possessing medical qualifications awarded by a foreign institution are required to qualify the FMGE Screening Test, in order to receive recognition for their medical qualifications and to be registered to the State Medical Councils to practice medicine in India.

FMGE, which is conducted by NBE, is a multiple choice examination consisting of 300 questions. In order to pass, a candidate is required to correctly answer 150 questions or score 50 percent in the examination, and there is no negative marking for wrong answers.

At the outset, the Association of MD Physicians, an association of Indian medical graduates who have completed their primary medical courses from medical education institutions outside India, filed a petition before the Delhi High Court, seeking directions to the NBE to award full marks to all the candidates for the incorrect question that formed part of the question paper for FMGE conducted on December 4, 2020.

The disputed questions read as under:

“Sample Registration System gives information about all except:

a. Birth rate

b. Death rate

c. Maternal Mortality rate

 d. Infant mortality rate”

The correct answer to the above question, as per the NBE, is option (c). However, the Association’s contention was that the question was patently erroneous, as it had no correct answer.  In this regard, the Association made a representation to NBE as well as the Government on January 12, 2021, raising the contention that the above-mentioned question was technically incorrect.

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The NBE, vide notice dated January 16, 2021, clarified that the result was declared after “necessary checks, including post exam review of the question paper by subject matter experts” and was thus, final.

Justice Jalan was of the view that the contention of NBE that SRS does not give information about MMR could not be accepted, “when that very information has been used in the discharge of the Government’s solemn responsibility to Parliament, which is central to the functioning of our democracy.”

He, thereby, directed that the incorrect question be deleted from the FMGE (December 2020), and an extra one mark be awarded to those candidates who were assessed as having answered it incorrectly. “In the event any candidate thus achieves the passing score of 150 marks, they would be treated as having passed the FMGE (December 2020),” stated the Bench.

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