New Delhi: The Supreme Court sought a response of the Rajasthan government and the Medical Council of India(MCI) on a plea seeking quashing of a High Court order allowing incentive marks to MBBS doctors who have served in remote areas in NEET this year for PG admission.
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and M M Shantanagoudar issued notice to them on the 10 per cent incentive marks seeking their response, while refusing to stay the ongoing counseling process.
The bench, however, made it clear that the admissions to the PG courses for the current session will be subject to the outcome of the petition.
“The counselling process will go on. However, the admission will be subject to the outcome of this petition,” it said and fixed April 17 as the next date of hearing.
The plea, filed by Amit Bagra and other doctors, who have MBBS degrees but are not in government service, challenges the April 7 order of a division bench of the Rajasthan High Court by which the state government was allowed to continue with its policy decision to award 10 per cent incentive marks in NEET, 2017 to its doctors serving in hospitals in remote areas.
The larger bench of the high court had vacated the stay granted by a single judge bench on the state governments notification on the issue.
The appeal, filed through lawyer Sahir Hussain, alleged that the Rajasthan government decided to give 10 per cent incentive marks to in-service MBBS doctors without even defining remote areas.
It contended that the process of selection for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) 2017 had begun in September 2016 whereas the state government notification came on March 20 this year.
The petitioners are MBBS students of non-service category who appeared in NEET-PG 2017 and cleared it.
As per the Medical Council of India regulation of February 15, 2012, discretionary powers were given to state government/competent authority to award incentive marks to the in-service candidates working in the notified remote areas.
This notification was stayed by a single judge of the high court on April 3 this year.
In-service candidates challenged the order and the division bench had on April 7 directed the state government to grant incentive marks to in-service candidates.
“It is a well-settled proposition of law that the criteria of selection cannot be changed once the process of selection has already commenced.
“Thus even if the state government now proceeds with framing any guidelines/regulation/policy/law etc, with the object to notify and define remote and difficult area for all beneficial schemes of the state for such areas and not limited to the matter of admission in PG medical courses, the same shall be applied prospectively,” the plea filed in the apex court said.
It said the state government, at this belated stage, cannot change the selection criteria under the garb of any future guidelines/regulations as is propounded by the Supreme Court in a plethora of judgements.
“Thus the selection process for admission for year 2017 has to be governed by the old scheme, wherein there is no place for incentive marks,” it said.
The MCI Regulation gives the state a discretion to give or not to give incentive to the in-service candidates.
“For the benefit of incentive to be given to the in- service category students, it is relevant for the state to define and explain in discernible terms keeping the remoteness and difficulty of an area under consideration that what is remote or difficult area and which candidate belongs to remote area for the purpose,” it said.
The plea said that defining the remote/difficult area would give an option to the medical officers to opt for such area in order to avail benefits of the incentive marks and it is only after someone has consciously opted for working in a remote area, that any benefit of marks can be awarded.