A Supreme Court Bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V. Ramasubramanian heard the appeal preferred by the National Medical Commission, against the Madras High Court order which provided relief to medical students who studied in China and had to do their practical internship through the online mode.

To that end, the Supreme Court had held "No doubt, the pandemic has thrown new challenges to the entire world including the students but granting provisional registration to complete internship to a student who has not undergone clinical training would be compromising with the health of the citizens of any country and the health infrastructure at large."

Senior Counsel Mr. Vikas Singh appeared on behalf of the Appellants. Senior Counsel Mr. S. Nagamuthu appeared for the Respondents.

The Respondents had joined the medical college in China, where they underwent nine semesters of an academic course. However, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the clinical training for the subjects of Ophthalmology, Otorhinolaryngology, and Nuclear Medicine in the 10th Semester was done online and they were granted the degree of Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) after qualifying in all the subjects as per the teaching plan, by the Foreign Institute. The Tamil Nadu Medical Council denied provisional registration to some such students, which led to the filing of a number of Writ Petitions before the High Court. The High Court allowed their Writ Petitions. The National Medical Commission approached the Supreme Court.

The Counsel appearing for the Appellant contended that as per the dates of the semester and the date of departure of a student from China, it shows that the student has not completed the ninth semester in part and the tenth semester completely, therefore, the student is not eligible for provisional registration to undergo one-year internship so as to be eligible for registration as a professional. It was further argued that clinical training cannot be imparted through online mode as it is the actual training involving diagnosis and interactions with the patients.

The Counsel appearing on behalf of the Respondents contended that the action of the Tamil Nadu Medical Council was completely arbitrary and discriminatory as some students had been granted provisional registration not only by the Tamil Nadu Medical Council but also by the Medical Council of different States.

The Supreme Court noted that the student had admittedly not completed clinical training which was part of the curriculum. The Court opined that "the appellant is not bound to grant provisional registration to the student who has not completed the entire duration of the course from the Foreign Institute including the clinical training."

Regarding the claim of completing clinical training in the online mode, the Court relied on the judgment in Orissa Lift Irrigation Corporation Limited v. Rabi Sankar Patro & Ors., where the degree in engineering was being conferred by the online method, and the court had held that the practicals form the backbone of such education which is a hands-on approach involving actual application of principles taught in theory.

Therefore, the Supreme Court opined that without practical training, there cannot be any Doctor who is expected to take care of the citizens of the country. To that end, the Court opined that the decision of the Appellant to not grant provisional registration cannot be said to be arbitrary.

Further, the Court held that the argument of certain students being granted provisional registration will not confer any right with the student to claim provisional registration so as to undergo the internship.

The Court opined that it could not agree with the High Court's recommendations regarding training protocols, as the Courts are not experts in deciding academic curriculum or the requirement of the clinical training.

Therefore, the Court directed the Appellant -

i) To frame a scheme as a one time measure within two months to allow the student and such similarly situated students who have not actually completed clinical training to undergo clinical training in India in the medical colleges which may be identified by the appellant for a limited duration as may be specified by the appellant, on such charges which the appellant determines.

ii) It shall be open to the appellant to test the candidates in the scheme so framed in the manner within the next one month, which it considers appropriate as to satisfy that such students are sufficiently trained to be provisionally registered to complete an internship for 12 months.

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