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Challenge to mandatory rural service for young doctors: Karnataka High Court seeks response from Central, State govts

The Karnataka High Court recently issued notice in a petition filed by medical students questioning the legality of the Karnataka Compulsory Service by Candidates Completed Medical Courses Act 2012 (Compulsory Act) which compels candidates who have completed medical education to render compulsory rural service for one year [Dr Sharanya Mohan v. Union of India].

A Bench of Justice R Devdas sought the responses of the Central and State governments on a petition filed by forty-four students who are into the final year of their MBBS course.

Besides the validity of the Act, the petitioners also challenged the validity of the notification dated February 15,2021, issued by the Directorate of Medical Education, directing colleges to withhold all original documents of students who have completed their medical courses.

During the hearing of the matter, the government advocate submitted that the State Government, Director of Medical Education/The Commissioner of Health and Family Welfare Department has not called for any counselling in respect of the allotment of Primary Health Centres/ Government Hospital for Compulsory Rural Service.

The marks cards of the students can be directed to be issued, the government advocate said.

The Court then directed the State to pass necessary orders to this effect.

The petition filed by Dr Sharanya Mohan and forty-three others, through advocate Manik BT, challenged the the validity of the Compulsory Act.

Though the High Court had in August, 2019 upheld the constitutional validity of the Act, the petitioners contended that the law on compulsory government service cannot continue to operate after the Central government notified the National Medical Commission (NMC) Act, 2019, which came into force post-September 2019, the plea said.

“Section 14 of the NMC Act empowers the Central Government with the exclusive right to conduct entrance exams for medical courses, pan-India, which is called the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (“NEET”). Thus, the state government as well as private educational institutions can no longer hold entrance exams for medical courses.”

The petition further pointed out that the apex court had asked the Central government to frame a uniform policy on compulsory government service as many States had no such service. In this light, the petitioner contended that the State cannot impose such service as such a power is now vested only with the NMC.

The plea further questioned the validity of the notification dated February 15, 2021, issued by the Directorate of Medical Education, directing colleges to withhold all original documents of students who have completed their medical courses.

The documents are important to apply for the graduate National Eligibility-Cum-Entrance to joint postgraduate medical courses, said the petitioners. Therefore, denying their documents is contrary to the law and deprives their right to opt for higher education.

On these grounds, the petitioner sought quashing of the Compulsory Act as well as the February 15 notification.

This apart, the petition also assailed Rule 11 of the Karnataka Selection of Candidates for Admission to Government Seats in Professional Educational Rules, 2006, in so far as it relates to candidates admitted to the MBBS course executing bonds claiming that it is ultra vires to the Karnataka Professional Education Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Determination of Fees) Act 2006 as well as National Medical Commission Act 2019.

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