Can’t admit medical undergrads from Ukraine in India: govt to SC

Indian undergraduate medical students who fled 147/" class="">Ukraine due to the war cannot be accommodated in the country’s medical colleges, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Thursday.

In its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Union Ministry of Health pointed out it had already introduced some “proactive measures to assist the returnee students”.

Any further relaxation, the ministry said, including transfer to medical colleges in India, would be “dehors (outside the scope) of the provisions of Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and the National Medical Commission Act, 2019”.

Allowing such transfers would also seriously hamper the standards of medical education in India, it added.

The top court is due to hear a plea by the students Friday.

In the affidavit, the health ministry said it had examined the issue elaborately in consultation with the National Medical Commission (NMC), the country’s apex regulatory body for medical education.

It said while the NMC had so far “not allowed to transfer or accommodate any foreign medical student in any Indian medical institute/ university”, the regulatory body had allowed medical graduates with incomplete internship, due to their leaving their colleges or universities abroad in view of the war or the Covid pandemic, to complete the remaining part of the internship in India.

It said the NMC had also, after SC’s directions in July this year, devised a scheme for returnees who had been in the last year of their undergraduate medicine courses abroad and completed their studies in India and were subsequently granted course completion certificates on or before June 30, 2022. The scheme allowed such students to take the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in India, the ministry said.

The ministry said the current petitioners, however, appeared to be undergraduate students in the 1st to 4th year of studies in foreign medical colleges, primarily seeking transfer to Indian medical colleges in their respective semesters.

“There are no such provisions”, the affidavit stated, “either under the Indian medical Council Act, 1956 or under the National Medical Council Act, 2019, as well as regulations to accommodate or transfer medical students from any foreign medical institutes/ colleges to Indian medical colleges.”

The ministry said that to help such returnee students, the NMC, in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs, had issued a public notice on September 6 “indicating that NMC would accept completion of the remaining course in other foreign countries (with the approval of parent university/ institution in Ukraine)”.

It however added that the public notice “cannot be interpreted to mean accommodation of the students in Indian colleges/ universities as the extant regulations in India do not permit migration of students from foreign universities to India” and that it “cannot be used as a backdoor entry in Indian colleges/ universities offering undergraduate courses”.

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The ministry said that most of the petitioner students had opted to study in foreign countries because they had “poor” scores in the NEET exam, and due to the affordability of medical education in such countries.

If they are now allowed admission in premier medical colleges in India, the ministry added, by default there may be several litigations from those desirous candidates who could not get seats in these colleges and have taken admission in either lesser-known colleges or have been deprived of a seat in medical colleges.

“Further, in case of affordability, if these candidates are allowed private medical colleges in India, they once again may not be able to afford the fees structure of the concerned institution,” the affidavit added.