Delhi HC slams NBE for denying DNB admissions to MBBS medicos on lack of documents
New Delhi: In a major relief to two doctors, the Delhi HC has granted them admissions after they were denied DNB Post MBBS seats by the National Board of Examination (NBE); due to failure in producing original MBBS certificates before the authority during the counselling sessions. The court also pulled up NBE issuing them directions on what measures to take during counselling to avoid such cases in future.
The HC bench noted that the NBE ousted the candidature of the two concerned DNB candidates even though they were otherwise qualified; only on the ground that they did not have in their possession either the MBBS certificate or a letter from the concerned University evidencing the fact that the original MBBS degree had not been issued to them.
NBE based its decision on the provision incorporated in its Handbook for Admission to DNB Broad Specialty Courses including Direct 6 Years Courses (Post MBBS) January 2019, Admission Session which lists documents to be produced in original during the counselling session failing which the candidates shall not be allowed to participate in the counselling.
Both the candidates were unable to produce the original MBBS qualifying certificate as on the date of counselling. While one doctor received her certificate prior to the last date of counselling but after the date she was asked to participate in; the other got it later.
During the hearing, one of the medicos contended that as per point no. 9 at page no. 19 read with proviso of the Handbook, she could have presented the original MBBS degree certificate even at the time of joining the allotted institute. It was asserted that she had sought time to produce the same even via fax but that request was rejected.
Concededly, the other DNB Post MBBS candidate did not have, at the time of counselling, the original MBBS degree in her possession and therefore, what she produced at that juncture was the provisional pass certificate pertaining to MBBS course along with other requisite documents. The medico sought to rely upon the provisional pass certificate relating to MBBS course to assert that she met the eligibility criteria, the same was not accepted by the counselling authority.
The counsels on behalf of the petitioners contended before the court:
“The petitioners should not be denied a seat only because the mode of proof to establish that they had acquired the MBBS course was different from the one which was prescribed by the NBE via provisions made in that behalf in its Handbook.
Since this aspect concerned only about placement of relevant proof before the NBE concerning the fulfillment of the eligibility criteria (i.e. the basic qualification), the NBE could not have rejected the petitioners’ claim to the seat only because the mode of proof was different from the one prescribed.
There is no doubt that the petitioners met the eligibility criteria, the NBE ought to have given time to the petitioners to place the original MBBS degree certificate on record, at least till the date of joining, if not later…”
As a matter of fact, insofar as the petitioners were concerned, the confusion was caused by what was written in the Counselling Participation Letter (CPL) which required the petitioners to produce either the original MBBS degree or the provisional pass certificate. The proviso contained in the CPL did not relate to undergraduate degrees. It is for this reason that petitioners did not feel the need for making available the original MBBS certificate on the date of the final round of counselling.
In response to the claims made by the doctors, the NBE resisted the relief sought by both the petitioners by adverting that, “Petitioners could not take advantage of the error committed in the CPL for the reason that the documents/certificates that the candidates had to produce on the day of the final round of the counselling were listed out not only in the handbook but also in the two public notices dated 25.03.2019 and 04.06.2019.”
The NBE further contended that production of original MBBS degree or the letter from the competent authority of the concerned University/Board that original MBBS degree had not been issued to the candidates was necessary as such process prevented seats from being blocked and reduced substantially the probability of seats being wasted.
The counselling authority emphasized that since the petitioners had neither produced on the date of counselling their respective MBBS degrees nor a letter from the competent authority establishing that fact, they necessarily could not lay the claim to the seats which are now lying vacant.
After noting all the submissions and contentions made by the parties, the Delhi HC bench of Honorable Justice Rajiv Shakdher observed;
the argument advanced on behalf of the petitioners was that if they did not have the original MBBS degree then as per the proviso to paragraph 7.4.4 (a) of the Handbook they could produce a letter from the competent authority of the concerned University/Board, stating so, which could be furnished at the time of counselling or on the date the candidate joined the allotted institute….
… a close perusal of the paragraph 7.4.4(a) along with the proviso would show that candidates who had passed the MBBS course before 2018 were required to establish the fulfillment of his/her eligibility criteria in either of the following ways :
by actually producing the original MBBS degree certificate or
by placing on record a letter from the competent authority of the concerned University or Board that even though the candidate had cleared the MBBS course, the MBBS degree certificate had not been issued to him.
On the aforesaid observation, the bench noted that the interpretation of the clause should be such that it balances the interest of not only the candidate who is being considered for allotment of the seat but of all those who are waiting in the queue.
The judge held that the NBE lost focus of the fact that cases of the petitioners were poised at the stage of verification of documents and/or certificates to enable it to conclude that they in point of fact met the eligibility criteria, the eligibility criteria being acquisition of MBBS degree.
In case of the first doctor, the bench said since she had obtained her original MBBS degree before the cut-off date, and hence, the NBE was wrong in rejecting her candidature.
For the other doctor, the judge held that as the medico is now in possession of the MBBS degree certificate and given the fact that a seat is available which if not allotted to the petitioner would get wasted, the court was inclined to direct the NBE to allot a seat in JLN Hospital & Research Centre, Chhattisgarh to the doctor.
Thereafter, to avoid such cases in future, the court gave the following suggestions to the NBE:
A candidate should have acquired the eligibility qualification or met eligibility criteria before the cut-off date (in this case 30.06.2019). Where the eligibility qualification or eligibility criteria are met after the cut-off date, the candidate can seek admission only in the academic sessions which would follow thereafter.
In case, a candidate can place on record material which unerringly points to the direction that he or she has acquired the eligibility criteria, latitude should be given to produce the original certificate(s), albeit, within a reasonable time.
The Counselling Committees or authorities who were charged with the responsibility of admitting the students should be able to use information technology tools to establish contact with their counterparts so that deserving candidates do not lose their chance of admittance to the designated course only because they do not have in their possession the original certificate(s). To facilitate this exercise, the concerned Counselling Committee or those who were charged with the responsibility of admitting students should use the internet, video conferencing facilities, facsimiles, and phones. The NBE would serve the interest of students if it collects the contact details of their counterparts, if not all, of at least known colleges and institutes. The administrative difficulty in collecting such data ought not to come in the way of denying what is otherwise rightfully due to a candidate.
The concerned Medical Boards will do well if they were to upload the particulars of doctors registered with them on their respective web-portals. This would enable the counselling committees to cross-verify the information given by the candidates at the touch of a button.
Insofar as the proviso to paragraph 7.4.4(a) of the Handbook is concerned, to my mind, it enabled a candidate who had passed the MBBS course before 2018 to produce proof of having acquired the qualification either on the date of counselling or on the date when the candidate joined the allotted institute. Since the proviso is incorporated in paragraph 7.4.4(a) of the Handbook for the benefit of the students, the more purposeful and, if I may say so, a meaningful interpretation would be the one which is given above.