The Supreme Court issued notices to the Rajasthan government and the Medical Council of India (MCI) on Thursday over bonus marks to in-service doctors, working in remote or difficult areas, who appeared in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test – Post Graduate (NEET-PG) 2016.
On April 7 last year, a double bench of the Rajasthan high court had mandated the state government to give up to 30% bonus marks to such in-service government doctors for PG seats.
Hearing a petition challenging the high court order, a three-judge bench of the apex court called the lawyers of the state government and the MCI for a hearing on April 17. The bench said the result of NEET-PG 2016 will be subject to outcome of the special leave petition filed by the non-service doctors or freshers who appeared for the test, said Purvi Mathur, a counsel for the non-service doctors.
The state government had declared the merit list of the students for 50% of the PG seats in state’s medical colleges by giving 10% additional marks in NEET-PG to those candidates who served in rural areas.
After a petition was filed in the high court, a single-judge bench quashed the merit list, saying the incentive can’t be given until the government defines the ‘remote and/or difficult areas’ as specified in the MCI regulations, said Mathur.
A clause in an MCI regulation regarding PG seats says the government may give an incentive of 10% and up to 30% to doctors working in ‘remote and/or difficult areas’.
Hearing an appeal by the aggrieved party, the division bench set aside the single-bench order on April 7 and gave 10%, 20% and 30% incentive to the in-service doctors with one-year, two-year and three-year experience, respectively.
The division bench order was challenged by the non-service doctors in the SC.
“Earlier in the state quota, there used to be 50% in-service doctors and 50% non-service doctors. Now there is not even a single non-service doctor in the top 100,” said Dr Deepak Raj, a non-service doctor. “My rank is 715. If the bonus to in-service doctors is done away with, I will easily be in the top 200.”
Sahir Hussain, another counsel for the non-service doctors, said the division bench order has been challenged on three grounds.
“One, the state should first define the term ‘remote and/or difficult areas’; second, the decision to give bonus marks can’t be taken after the selection procedure has started; and third, the MCI regulations use the word ‘may’ and are therefore discretionary and not mandatory.”
Dr Nasreen Bharti, general secretary of the All Rajasthan In-service Doctors’ Association told HT that the division bench had pronounced the order using a year-old SC judgment as a precedent. “The MBBS graduates are now either going to private hospitals or foreign countries. Those going to rural areas and serving the public should get the benefits,” she said.