Medical exams: Students must submit Covid negative report before exams, says HC
The Bombay high court (HC) on Saturday gave a nod to conduct an offline examination of medical students in the state, slated from June 10. However, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay HC has also directed the Maharashtra University of Health Science (MUHS) to issue advisory asking medical students to produce an RT-PCR negative report along with their hall ticket at the examination centre on June 10. The court further said that before their subsequent paper (on June 15) students be asked to submit a negative rapid antigen test report.
Responding to a PIL filed by HERD Educational and Medical Research Foundation, a Nagpur-based NGO and a physiotherapy student Nitesh Dhanraj Tantarpale, justice Avinash Gharote said that if the report is found positive, the examinee would not be allowed to write the paper.
The single-judge bench, however, refused to give any interim relief and stay to MUHS’s winter 2020 (offline) examination for undergraduate students. The PIL sought online examinations or vaccination for nearly 40,000 undergraduates before giving the semester exams spread across 20 days and 173 centres.
After the court order, the petitioner’s advocate Rahul Bhangde submitted that the students should be tested before the examination.
Appearing for MUHS, Advocate Abhijit Deshpande argued that due to paucity of time, they wouldn’t be able to carry out the exercise of informing students. As an option, he suggested an upper limit for students to get the test done independently.
Earlier, the MUHS strongly opposed the petition claiming that physical examinations were conducted last year as well. Deshpande pointed out that students were informed well in advance about offline tests. Two phases of the Winter-2020 examination are already complete, and the third phase will begin on June 10. Even the question papers have been dispatched to 173 examination centres and standard operating procedure (SOP) to sanitise the examination centres have been prepared and sent to all stakeholders.
Questioning the locus of the petitioners, MUHS counsel also stated that only one student had come forward for the court’s intervention and wondered as to how medical students afraid of Covid-19 would treat patients. The HC also observed that there was a shortage of vaccines and questioned the fate of citizens if the would-be doctors were afraid of disease.
The bench also favoured those students who should get their tests done and ordered RT-PCR negative report as a condition precedent to appear for the June 10 examination. The matter will now be heard by the regular division bench on June 14.
Some students happy, others disappointed
While students who wanted the exams to be conducted without any further postponement are happy with the court’s decision, several others took to social media platforms to share their displeasure.
“RT-PCR test before the first paper is good, but what if a student contracts the virus after the exam begins? If a student manages to complete two out of the total papers, will they have to reappear for all exams again? Or will there be any different rules? The government needs to clarify all such issues,” said Brijesh Sutaria, parent of a medical student.
Several student groups, including the Maharashtra Students Welfare Association, were hoping for offline exams this year, but the court’s decision has led to disappointment. “Colleges are assuring that social distancing will be maintained in exam halls, but what about hostels? Most of us will end up sharing rooms with three other students, making it easier for the virus to spread,” said a student.
Usually scheduled to take place in the month of December-January, the second and third-year MBBS, BDS, and other paramedical and certificate course exams were postponed thrice this year due to rising Covid-19 cases recorded across the state. From January this year, to February the exams were then scheduled to take place in April. However, due to the second wave of Covid-19 gripping the nation, these exams were once again postponed to finally take place in physical mode between June 10 and 30.