The Delhi High Court on Thursday granted permission to an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholder medical practitioner wishing to pursue Super Specialty studies in the country to apply for National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test-Super Specialty 2021 examination.
The Division Bench led by Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was hearing plea by one Dr Snigdha Kamini, who is aggrieved by the government’s decision that has rendered her ineligible to take the said examination. The Bench, while granting time to the Centre to file its response, underscored thus:
“Meanwhile, we hereby permit the petitioner to prefer an online application for NEET-SS 2021 Examination, and we hereby direct the respondent to accept the online application of the petitioner for NEET-SS 2021 Examination.”
The Bench opined that since Dr Kamini has already completed her graduation (MBBS) as well as post-graduation (MS) from India, there is a prima facie case in her favour. “If the stay as prayed for is not granted, it will cause an irreparable loss. Balance of favour is also in favour of the petitioner. Hence, online application shall be accepted by the respondents,” added the Bench.
‘Instant petition is against NEET-SS eligibility criteria, not OCI, NRI parity’
Advocate Rajesh Kumar, senior panel counsel representing the Centre, informed the Bench that the Apex Court is seized of a petition raising a similar issue, which is likely to be listed on September 29. In addition, he sought time to file the reply in pursuance of the previous order of the Court.
Upon this, Advocate Shivendra Singh, appearing for the petitioner,opposed the averments made by Kumar, and submitted that issues involved in the two petitions are entirely different, as the Apex Court is dealing with issue in respect of whether OCIs are to be considered at parity with that of NRIs, while the instant petition has challenged the eligibility criteria for taking the examination.
He informed the Bench that Snigdha Kamini, who has completed her MBBS as well as post-graduation degree from India, is not even permitted to register for NEET-SS 2021 examination on the ground that she is not an Indian national.
Claiming that she has invested 8.5 years in the medical education in the country, Singh contended that it would be unfair to deny her an opportunity to register for the examination; and thereby, urged the Bench to permit her to atleast register for it.
The Bench, while granting the permission as prayed for by Singh, made it clear that the acceptance of the online application form is subjected to the final outcome of the matter. “No equity will be created in favour of the petitioner if the petition is dismissed… Similarly acceptance of the online application by the respondents shall not be treated as an admission of any facts by the respondents,” stated the Bench.
The matter is slated for further hearing on October 22, 2021.
The Indian Government, on March 4, 2021, issued a notification specifying the rights to which an OCI cardholder will be entitled, wherein Clause (4) (ii) provided that the OCI cardholder aspirants appearing for the all India entrance tests or such other tests are eligible for admission ‘only against any Non-Resident Indian seat or any supernumerary seat’ and ‘shall not be eligible for admission against any seat reserved exclusively for Indian citizens’.
In August this year, the NBE published the Information Bulletin in respect of NEET-SS 2021, wherein Clause 3.6, in accordance with the Government’s notification, stipulated that foreign nationals are not eligible as there is no reservation of seats in Super Specialty courses.
Filed through Advocate Shivendra Singh, the plea highlights that the petitioner shifted to India in June 2004 and has been residing in India ever since. She has completed both Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) as well as Master of Surgery (MS) from India, and was at the forefront during the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
The plea states that the petitioner has very limited opportunities abroad as in many countries, including the US, post-graduation training in their own country is a prerequisite for admission into super specialty training, owing to which her Master of Surgery (MS) is not recognised in many countries outside India.
“Even though the Petitioner had an opportunity to pursue her post-graduation elsewhere, she chose to stay here as she has strong roots in India and intended to make a career in the healthcare sector,” the plea claims.
In light of the above, the plea prays for restraining the Government and the NBE from giving effect to Clause (4) (ii) of the notification dated March 4, 2021, as also to Clause 3.6 of the Information Bulletin for NEET-SS 2021 examination .
The plea reads thus:
“The deep and pervasive link of the Petitioner with the medical profession in India cannot be abruptly snapped after she has been permitted to read for MBBS (course with duration of five and a half years) and MS (course with duration of three years) by the Respondents who knew full well that she was an OCI card holder.”
“India is in dire need of healthcare professionals as evident during the COVID pandemic crisis and by the extremely poor Doctor-Patient ratio. The impugned notification would only demotivate healthcare professionals from staying back in India,”the plea adds further.
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