Can't treat doctors as football in game of power: SC

Can't treat young doctors as football in game of power, SC tells Centre on last-minute changes in NEET SS exam

The court also warned of strictures if it found the reasons for introducing changes were not satisfactory

The court told the authorities to deal with young doctors sensitively. Credit: PTI File Photo

The Supreme Court on Monday took an exception to last-minute changes in examination pattern for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2021 for super speciality courses, by telling the Centre that it cannot treat young doctors as a football in a game of power.

"Hold a meeting and put your house in order. We cannot put these young doctors at the mercy of insensitive bureaucrats," a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and B V Nagarathna told the National Medical Council, and other authorities.

Taking up a plea filed by Prateek Rastogi and other 40 Post Graduate qualified doctors, the bench told the counsel, "Students start preparing for super speciality courses months and months in advance. Why is the need to change the same last minute before the exam? Why can you not proceed with the changes from the following year?"

"Just because somebody has the power, it does not mean he would wield the power in any manner," the bench told senior advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for the National Board of Examination.

Read | NEET or not: Calls to scrap exam gain traction

The court also warned of strictures if it found the reasons for introducing changes were not satisfactory.

Singh, who along with the NMC counsel sought time to file a reply in the matter, maintained that the changes were as per existing norms prior to 2018.

"Don't treat these young doctors as footballs in the game of power... This (examination) is so important for their career. Now you cannot introduce changes last minute. These young doctors might be put at ruse due to the last-minute changes," the bench said.

The court told the authorities to deal with young doctors sensitively. The court asked Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati to hold a meeting with the concerned authorities and place on record the developments before it next week.

Also Read | SC notice to National Medical Council, others on change of pattern in NEET-SS exam

Earlier, senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that the notification for the examination, scheduled to be held on November 13-14 this year, was issued on July 23, 2021. However, on August 31, 2021, another notification was issued changing the pattern of the exam, putting the candidates at a great disadvantage due to lack of ample time for preparations.

Maintaining that the rules of the game cannot be changed after it has started, the counsel said as per the prevailing pattern from 2018 to 2020, 60 per cent marks were allotted from questions in the super speciality, while 40 per cent were distributed for questions from feeder courses.

However, as per the proposed pattern, the entirety of questions for the critical care super speciality will be drawn from general medicines, leaving the candidates from other disciplines in a difficult situation. 

Terming the decision as manifestly arbitrary, the petition contended the National Board of Examination and the National Medical Council have given a complete go-by to the specific directions of the central government to notify the students well in advance on any change in the pattern of examinations.

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