In a ruling that would affect Indian students pursuing medical courses abroad, the Supreme Court has ruled such students have to compulsorily undergo a "screening test" before taking up their medical practice in India.
"The scope of Section 13(4A) is quite clear and covers all foreign medical institutions falling within the ambit of Sections 12 and 13 of the Act.
"On a close and careful reading, provisions of the Amending Act of 2001 with the Eligibility Requirement Regulations and Screening Test Regulation, both of 2002, it becomes at once clear that the MCI is obliged to stipulate the screening test in the case of all those candidates who obtained medical qualification from medical institutions outside India," a three-judge bench of Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, P Sathasivam and J M Panchal said.
The apex court made the remarks in a judgement interpreting Sections 12 and 13 of the Medical Council of India (MCI) Act stipulating students pursuing medical courses under "reciprocal" programme with foreign medical college/ universities to mandatorily undergo "screening test" in India before commencing their practice.
The provision was incorporated by the MCI in view of the fact that a number of medical aspirants, having failed to obtain admissions in India, went abroad and obtained medical degrees for practising in India.
Some of the degrees obtained were of questionable nature, compelling the MCI to amend the Act in 2001 and 2002 to incorporate the "screening" provision. The screening test is conducted to evaluate the student's knowledge of medicine and skills for their conformity with the standards prescribed for medical practioners in India.
However, the validity of the provisions were challenged in a batch of writ petitions by Indian students who obtained their undergraduate medical degrees from Manipal College of Medical Sciences, Pokhara, Nepal.
The students main argument was that they cannot be subjected to the screening test and should instead be directly granted provisional and permanent registration for practising in India.
The Delhi High Court had earlier rejected their plea, after which they appealed in the apex court.
Rejecting the students' arguments, the apex court said the effect of the stipulation contained in sub-Section (4A) of Section 13 of the MCI Act clearly mandated that after March 15, 2002 such students have too undergo the screening test.