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PIL in Delhi High Court seeks measures for Indian students evacuated from Ukraine to continue their medical studies

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A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Delhi High Court seeking a direction to the Union of India and National Medical Commission to take appropriate steps to enable and facilitate the continuance of studies of Indian medical students in medical colleges in India from the stage where their studies were disrupted by the war in Ukraine.

The petition has been filed by NGO Pravasi Legal Cell through Advocate M.P. Srivignesh.

The petition seeks to bring to the notice of the High Court, the plight of the Indian medical students rescued from war-hit Ukraine that has the potential of disrupting the careers of thousands of young men and women who have already gone through the trauma of being in a war zone.

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It is submitted that thousands of Indian medical aspirants prefer Ukraine for medical education due to various factors including affordability, quality of education and the license to practice abroad. In Ukraine, Indian medical students also have no compulsion to give any medical entrance exam if they clear NEET. All the above factors make Ukraine a comfortable option for Indians.

Indian students who study in Ukraine also have the advantage of getting to practice medicine in India. A medical degree earned from Ukraine is accepted by the National Medical Commission on passing its Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE). According to the new FMGE rules, an MBBS aspirant can take up to 10 years to complete the program apart from the minimum course work tenure of 4.5 years, candidates need to intern for two years: 12 months in the foreign medical institute where they are studying and another year of supervised internship in India.

According to the provisions of the National Medical Commission (Foreign Medical Graduate Licentiate) Regulations, 2021, the entire course, training and internship or clerkship shall be done outside India in the same foreign medical institution throughout the course of study.

The provisions also state that no part of medical training and internship shall be done in India or in any country other than the one from where the primary medical qualification is obtained.

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Therefore, it is submitted that at present there are no norms or regulations in India to accommodate medical students, who were studying abroad and had to return to India midway, in Indian medical colleges in between an academic session.

According to certain data, there are around 20,000 Indian students who were studying in Ukraine and in the present situation, there is no end in sight for the miseries of such students making their life uncertain.

The PIL mentions that the National Medical Commission had issued a circular dated March 4, 2022 allowing payment of stipend to those who qualify the Foreign Medical Graduate Exam in India. The relevant portion of the circular is extracted as below: “There are some Foreign Medical Graduates with incomplete internship due to such compelling situations which are beyond their control such as Covid-19 and war. Considering the agony and stress faced by these foreign medical graduates, their application to complete the remaining part of internship in India is considered eligible.”

However, the above circular is not of much use to students who have been rescued from Ukraine as many of them are in the second, third or fourth year of studies and have not completed their degree yet. To qualify for the stipend, one has to complete the degree, appear for the exam, qualify and then get the internship, the PIL stated.

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The grounds mentioned in the PIL are:-

(i) BECAUSE the plight of the Indian medical students rescued from war-hit Ukraine has the potential of disrupting their careers who have already gone through the trauma of being in the war zone.

(ii)BECAUSE at present there are no norms or regulations in India to accommodate medical students, who were studying abroad and had to return to India midway, in Indian medical colleges in between an academic session.

(iii) BECAUSE the Constitution of India guarantees fundamental Rights to Life under Article 21 which should mean and include the right to access and continuance to medical education in India by students of India who are forced to leave their medical education abroad due to present scenario.

(iv) BECAUSE it is a well settled principle of law that the Government must formulate such policy/policies which would ensure that no Citizen is deprived of their fundamental right to education.

(v)BECAUSE the Respondents should make appropriate steps to accommodate the medical students returning from Ukraine and permit them to complete their education in an Indian medical college with appropriate Indian or foreign degree as an emergency and one time measure. Such one-time exception for war affected Indian Students studying abroad is in consonance with India’s constitution scheme of availability of fundamental rights including right to life, justice, equity and fair play and goes well with the ideals of India as a true welfare state

The Delhi High Court is expected to take up the petition on March 21.

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