New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to provide details of medical students from Ukraine who availed of its academic mobility programme under which they can finish their courses in universities or colleges of other countries.
The Centre said it cannot accommodate the medical students studying in universities of Ukraine, who have returned to the country due to war there, in Indian medical institutes or universities as it “would disrupt the entire medical education system” here.
SC asks for progress report on NMC’s Academic Mobility Programme
A bench of justices Aniruddha Bose and Vikram Nath asked Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, to file an affidavit specifying the details of the number of medical students who have been accommodated in third countries and how the scheme was progressing. Bhati said the Centre earlier filed its affidavit and had said that with the assistance of the Ministry of External Affairs, the National Medical Council (NMC) issued a notice dated September 6 under which an academic mobility programme was launched under which the NMC would accept completion of their remaining courses in other countries (with the approval of parent university/institution in Ukraine).
The top court was hearing a batch of petitions filed by undergraduate medical students of first to fourth-year batches in their respective foreign medical colleges/universities. These students are primarily seeking transfer to medical colleges in India in their respective semesters. Senior advocate Ajit Sinha, appearing for some of the students, said they are suffering for no fault of theirs and several states have said they are ready to accept these students.
SC bench says medical education under NMC, can’t do anything
The bench said all these issues are in the expert domain and it cannot do anything as medical education is regulated by the NMC and the Centre has to take a call on accommodating them. Senior advocate Maneka Guruswamy, also appearing for a group of medical students, said it is a humanitarian issue and due to the lack of help from the government many medical students have to return to war-torn Ukraine. Senior advocate R Basant said the government cannot shy away from these students and has to come forward with the help.
He said 12 states are ready to accept these students and help them in completing their course and the Centre has to only give its permission. Bhati said in India, thousands of students who are studying medical education have gone into those colleges after clearing NEET examination and allowing these Ukraine-returned students “would disrupt the entire medical education system in the country.”
Centre says any help to students would be ‘prejudicial’
She said any relaxation will be prejudicial to the students who are studying in colleges after qualifying for the NEET examination and pointed out that aggrieved students have gone to Ukraine by choice. The bench asked Bhati to look for providing them assistance in South Asian countries. On September 23, the Centre told the top court that it is working on the suggestions given by the court to assist medical students who have returned to India from Ukraine.
The apex court had on September 16 suggested that the Centre assist these medical students by creating a web portal giving details of the foreign universities, where they could complete their courses as per the government’s academic mobility programme. The counsel appearing for the Centre had told the top court that they have written to the secretaries of the ministries of external affairs as well as health on the issue. On September 16, the apex court said there should be a transparent system and the web portal should specify complete details of the fees and the number of seats available in alternative foreign universities from where these students could complete their courses.
The Centre, in its affidavit filed in the matter, had said they (students) cannot be accommodated in medical colleges here for lack of provisions under the law and till now, no permission has been given by the National Medical Commission (NMC) to transfer or accommodate any foreign medical students in any Indian medical institute/University. It, however, had said that to aid and assist such returnee students who could not complete their MBBS courses in Ukraine, NMC in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs has issued a public notice dated September 6, 2022 (academic mobility programme), indicating that NMC would accept completion of their remaining courses in other countries (with the approval of parent university/institution in Ukraine).
No provision to transfer Indian medical students to Indian colleges
The government had said that after such completion of their remaining courses, the certificate, of course, completion/degree is expected to be issued by the parent institutions in Ukraine. It had added that in the public notice dated September 6, the phrase “global mobility” cannot be interpreted to mean accommodation of these students in Indian colleges/universities, as the extant regulations in India do not permit migration of students from foreign universities to India.
The government had further said, “It is humbly submitted that in so far as such students are concerned, there are no such provisions either under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 or the National Medical Commission Act, 2019 as well as the Regulations to accommodate or transfer medical students from any foreign medical institutes/colleges to Indian medical colleges.”