Indian doctors have won a significant legal battle in the High Court of Justice as the British government agreed to withdraw a "discriminatory clause" which would have excluded them from job interview and appointment process if they did not have visas beyond August 1, 2007.
The High Court was due to hear on Thursday the application filed by the British Association for People of Indian Origin (BAPIO) for permission to take a judicial review of the injunction on rules affecting Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) doctors.
As the judge began the hearing on Thursday, the Secretary of State's Counsel requested a brief adjournment. BAPIO was then informed that the Secretary of State was prepared to concede.
"BAPIO accepted this offer and agreed to withdraw the case since the Secretary of State gave an undertaking to the court that this clause will be removed," Dr Ramesh Mehta, President of BAPIO, said on Friday.
"For the first time a clear message has been sent out that promises made to International Medicals Graduates (IMGs) must be kept. HSMP doctors were allowed in to make UK their home; HSMP doctors must be treated at par with UK and EU nationals and there is no basis for discriminating against them," Mehta said.
On March 4, BAPIO obtained an emergency injunction to prevent discrimination of doctors on HSMP visa whose visas were due for renewal before August 1, in the first round of the current recruitment for 21,000 training jobs.
BAPIO believed that this would disadvantage many international doctors whose visa came up for renewal before this date and hence filed for and obtained this injunction.
Dr Raman Lakshman, Vice Chair for Policy, said, "We had many doctors writing to us expressing concern that they will be refused an interview even though they had been short-listed. We therefore had no option but to file for the injunction.
We were sure we would have won if the case had been heard. We are pleased that the Department of Health has conceded and we hope there will be no further obstacles for HSMP doctors."
"This marks a great day in the history of IMG in the UK. At long last IMG have been able to assert their right to be treated fairly. We thank our barristers, solicitors and legal team for their efficient and effective action," said Dr Satheesh Mathew, Vice Chair for Operations.
Meanwhile, a spokesman of the UK Visas said certain "transitional arrangements" have been made for Highly Skilled Migrants in the UK to ensure that they qualify for further leave to remain.
He said in all 40,713 applications were received from outside of the UK for consideration under HSMP during 2006 and of them 21,948 applications were approved.
Of the 14,716 applications for renewal of leave under HSMP in 2006, 14,109 were approved.