Choice of super specialisation course for doctors: Centre sets up special committee, SC to hear matter in July

New Delhi: The major issue of vacant super speciality seats and how they can be filled up is now going to be looked up by a special committee set up by the Central Government for this purpose.

The very confirmation of the same was made by the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati to the Supreme Court recently in a matter. She informed the bench that the Union Government was set to appoint a committee chaired by the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). This committee will find a solution to the problem regarding the huge number of vacant Super- specialty seats.

ASG Bhati made this submission when the top court bench comprising Justices B R Gavai and Vikram Nath expressed its concern regarding the vacant super-specialty seats and asked the ASG to “impress upon the concerned authorities to find a solution for this problem.”

According to the submissions made by the ASG, the Govt panel will comprise the representatives of the States across the country, along with the private medical colleges.

Taking note of the submission, the bench pointed out that the next academic session would commence in July. Referring to this, the Apex Court bench requested the law officer to request the committee to come up with the solution before July 2023.

Also Read: Vacant SS Seats: Why are doctors penalised for changing field of super-specialisation after admission? Supreme Court to Decide

The move comes as the court was lamenting over the vacant super specialty seats and observed in an order dated April 13, “The present petition depicts a very sorry picture that 1,003 precious super specialty seats are going to waste, inasmuch as nobody could be admitted on the said seats. On the one hand, we find that there is always a shortage of super specialty doctors and on the other hand these precious seats remain unfilled.”

The issue of vacant super-specialisation seats is a very strong one. While India is slowly and gradually increasing the number of doctors for a better doctor-population ratio, the specialists and super specialists are still inadequate in number.

The doctors have pointed out that mainly two issues create obstacles for them while they apply for the super speciality courses. The first one is the feeder qualification, which limits the number of specialisation that are eligible to take up a particular super-specialisation. The second issue that the doctors face is that during the counselling if they have chosen a super specialisation seat and they wish to vacate that seat, heavy penalties are imposed for the same.

However, in an attempt to fill up these vacancies, the Government regularly reduces the cut-off. If a candidate becomes eligible for a different specialisation due to the lowering of the cut-off and wants to take up that course, they cannot do so because they have already been admitted to some other super specialisation.

This is very demoralising for many as at the level of super-specialisation, because doctors demand that since they have passed all the necessary criteria to prove their merit, at the level of NEET-SS, there should be openness for the doctors to select their specialisation.

Challenging this issue of penalty and the rules that prohibit them to take up another specialisation after being admitted to another, some of the doctors had approached the Supreme Court. Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that the Apex court had sought clarification regarding the rules from the Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati posting the matter for further hearing on April 14. 

While considering the plea, the Supreme Court bench of Justices BR Gavai and Pankaj Mittal had also expressed their concern over vacant super-speciality seats across the country. The bench had noted, “We are aspiring to be a country with top-notch healthcare and we say that we are short of doctors, but in the same case we have seats going vacant for the doctors.”

During the hearing of the case on April 13, the bench noted that the petitioners had been permitted to resign from the seats and their resignations were accepted. After their resignation, the seats have also been filled up. At this outset, the bench issued an interim order and directed all the concerned colleges to return the original documents/papers of the petitioner doctors. “Insofar as the refund of fees is concerned, we will take a call and consider the matter subsequently,” the bench stated.

Lamenting over the vacant super-speciality seats, the top court bench further observed during the hearing, “The present petition depicts a very sorry picture that 1003 precious super speciality seats are going to waste, inasmuch as nobody could be admitted on the said seats.”

“On the one hand, we find that there is always a shortage of Super Specialty Doctors and on the other hand these precious seats remain unfilled,” it further added.

Therefore, the bench directed ASG Bhati to “impress upon the concerned authorities to find out a solution for this problem”. Responding to this, ASG Bhati submitted that the Union of India proposes to appoint a Committee under the Chairmanship of Director General of Health Services, consisting of all the stakeholders including the representatives of the States and the private medical colleges so that a solution could be found out for such a problem.

“The process of admission for the next academic session will start in the month of July, 2023. We, therefore, request the learned Additional Solicitor General of India to impress upon the said proposed committee to come out with a solution, prior to the commencement of the next academic session,” ordered the bench.

Allowing the Union Government to file their status report in this regard before the next date of hearing, the bench listed the plea for further hearing on July 4, 2023.

To view the order, click on the link below:

Also Read: SC junks plea challenging Centre decision to increase PG medical seats in GMCs alone

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