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Only the doctors who have served in rural areas for a minimum of three years are eligible for reservation: Madhya Pradesh High Court

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The High Court of Madhya Pradesh has quashed the merit list which was prepared by the State government for ‘in-service doctors’ for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) post graduate (PG) medical counselling for the year 2022-23.

A division bench comprising of Chief Justice RV Malimath and Justice Vishal Mishra have given directions to the state government for hold the counselling session afresh and coming up with a new list of eligible candidates.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by a group of doctors serving at various district hospitals across Madhya Pradesh. 

The plea states that the petitioner(doctors) had qualified in the NEET examination for admissions to PG medical courses held in May this year.

When the exams were conducted, the petitioners, all ‘in-service’ doctors, were eligible for a 30 percent reservation for PG admissions, however on July 26, 2022, the Madhya Pradesh government (MP government) amended the Madhya Pradesh Chikitsa Shiksha Pravesh Niyam, 2018 (2018 Rules) which excluded such ‘in-service’ doctors, who had served only in district level hospitals and district health care centres of the State.

With the new system, only the doctors, who had served in remote or rural areas for a minimum period of three years, were eligible for the 30 percent reservation.

Also Read: Madhya Pradesh High Court disposes of PIL against illegal hoardings in Damoh city

The petitioners, have challenged the proviso stating it to be arbitrary in nature.

The state government of Madhya Pradesh argued that while its 2018 Rules provided for 30 percent quota reservation for all registered medical officers, the 2022 amendment was introduced to restrict the reservation “only for those in-service candidates who have put in service in rural/remote and difficult areas.” 

The MP government argued and said that this was in tune with a 2021 order of the Supreme Court in the case of Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association and others v. Union of India and others.

The Supreme Court held that the medical officers working in the rural/remote and difficult areas should certainly get advantage over those doctors who have not rendered their services in these areas.

The High Court has accepted the the submission t was valid in law, however it also added that the new proviso could not be introduced mid-session. 

Also Read: Only the doctors who have served in rural areas for a minimum of three years are eligible for reservation: Madhya Pradesh High Court

The High Court said that so far as writ petitioners are concerned, we are of the considered view that the denial of the petitioners’ right to apply as in-service candidates has been grossly affected. That they are entitled to be considered as in-service candidates in terms of Rules 2 and 14 of the Rules of 2018. Not including their names in the list of candidates who were entitled for such a relief, in our considered view, is inappropriate.

The Court has thus ruled that the amendment would be prospective and would not affect the present batch of doctors.

The order said that bench has concluded that the impugned amendment is prospective and cannot affect the present batch of doctors. The court has now directed the state government to come up with a new list of eligible candidates. 

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