Throwing the Punjab and Haryana high court’s ruling and the Medical Council of India’s (MCI’s) regulations to the winds, a Punjab Vidhan Sabha committee has summoned all top medical education officers here on Friday to explore relaxation in the eligibility criteria for the reserved-category applicants for admissions to MBBS course in medical colleges of the state.
The surprise move comes a day before the beginning of the three-day counselling scheduled by the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS) – the nodal institution for MBBS/BDS admissions in the state – on its Faridkot campus on September 6.
A number of reserved categories’ seats in medical colleges have remained vacant after the second counselling in the last week of July for want of candidates meeting the minimum eligibility marks (40% for SCs).
According to reliable sources, the committee has called secretary, medical education, Hussan Lal; director, medical education, Dr Tejbir Singh; and BFUHS vice-chancellor Dr SS Gill.
Confirming the development, Shiromani Akali Dal MLA and retired high court judge Nirmal Singh, who is heading an assembly panel for the welfare of Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes, told HT that the meeting would find a way to deal with the issue of vacant seats for the reserved categories.
“The decision must be implemented before September 10, prior to the conclusion of the admission process as per the Supreme Court guidelines,” he said.
Reacting sharply to the move, the Association of Parents of Medical Aspirants in Punjab said the Vidhan Sabha committee’s move was completely against the norms laid down in the BFUHS prospectus.
“Both the prospectus and the MCI guidelines clearly prescribe that all reserved seats that fall vacant after the second counselling are to be transferred to the general pool before the third counselling and filled by eligible candidates,” said Faridkot-based Dr Sanjeev Sethi, a member of the association.
Any relaxation, Dr Sethi said, would amount to grave injustice to a large number of eligible general-pool students who are in the merit list for MBBS seats. The association threatened to take legal recourse against the Vidhan Sabha committee’s eleventh-hour attempt to alter the admission criteria.
Last week, while announcing the dates for the third – and final counselling, BFUHS had taken a stand that it would hold admissions strictly as per the criteria prescribed in the admission prospectus. Accordingly, the university has called only those Scheduled Castes (SC) candidates who scored at least 40% marks in the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT) in 2014. Similarly, only those NRI candidates have been called who scored 50% marks in the same examination.
Earlier, the Punjab and Haryana high court had dismissed the petition seeking relaxation in the eligibility criteria for NRI and SC students.
Previously, the Punjab government had urged the MCI to relax the MBBS admission criteria for SC and NRI candidates. But, the central regulator on medical education didn’t respond to the government communication.
However, while deposing in the high court last month on a petition filed by two NRI candidates seeking relaxation in eligibility marks for MBBS admission, the MCI had told the court that under its Graduate Medical Education Regulation, 1997, there was no provision or scope for lowering the criteria set for AIPMT. The MCI said medical admission regulations had been upheld by the Supreme Court in a number of cases and are “statutory, mandatory and binding in character”. The high court later dismissed the NRI petition and asked BFUHS to stick to its prospectus.