On Monday (July 12, 2021), the Delhi High Court sought the government's response to a petition filed by doctors challenging the imposition of costs and certain adverse observations made by the court while dismissing their petition seeking to postpone the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE) screening test due to COVID-19.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued notices to the National Board of Examination (NBE) and National Medical Commission (NMC) on the doctors' appeal, while emphasizing that the petitioner, the Association of MD Physicians, must first deposit Rs 25,000 with the Registrar General.
"This notice is issued on the condition that the appellant deposit the cost with the Registrar General of this court within three weeks of today. If deposited, the amount must be accepted by the Registrar General and placed in a six-month fixed deposit with a nationalized bank ", the bench stated that the matter would be heard on August 27, 2021.
The petitioner association has filed an appeal against a single judge's June 11, 2021, order imposing a fee of Rs 25,000 and making certain remarks while dismissing the petition seeking to postpone the June 18, 2021 exam.
During the hearing, advocate Adit S Pujari, who represented the association, stated that the single judge had held them for forum shopping, but the relief sought before the Supreme Court and the high court were different.
He stated that the doctors had sought to postpone the exam before a single judge of the high court, and that in the Supreme Court, their prayer for interim relief was to direct all states to induct foreign medical graduates to participate in the work force during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also asked the court to stay the single judge's June 11, 2021 order, but the bench denied his request saying, "We will not deviate from the order. We will not hear you until you have paid the Rs 25,000 deposit."
NMC was represented by advocates T Singhdev and Abhijit Chakravarty, whereas NBE was represented by lawyer Kirtiman Singh.
According to the association, which also includes some foreign medical graduates who completed their primary medical courses in institutions abroad, a limited number of cities have been notified as FMGE screening test centres, and a large number of candidates will be forced to travel without having received even one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
While dismissing the petition, the single judge stated that there was no doubt that the respondents, NBE, and NMC considered all aspects of the matter when deciding to hold the FMGE on June 20, 2021 on the scheduled date.
The court stated that the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic reached its peak in India in April and early May, and that numbers have since been steadily declining, and that it would be in the public interest if more doctors were added to the workforce to prepare for a possible third wave.
"Even so, the petitioner Association, which represents 41 candidates, has no legal right to seek postponement of an examination for which over 18,000 candidates have registered. Candidates who do not feel comfortable taking the FMGE-June 2021 may do so in the following session," the court stated.
"The fact of the matter is that the COVID-19 pandemic is a reality that one must live with, for at least some time in the future," it said, "However, all essential activities must continue, albeit with necessary precautionary measures."
The court also stated that the association had approached the court at a late stage, on June 6, when the Information Bulletin for the FMGE- June, 2021 had been out since April 16 and the peak of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to be behind us.
In the April 15,2021 notice and the April 16,2021 information bulletin titled 'Foreign Medical Graduate Exam Screening Test information bulletin June 2021 session' published by the NBE, the association sought to set aside the time schedule for conducting the June 2021 FMGE.