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The Supreme Court on Monday allowed states to give extra-occupational doctors the benefit of reserving seats as part of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) graduate courses.

A five-judge constitutional bank, consisting of Judges Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran, Indira Banerjee, MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose, said the Medical Council of India (MCI) did not have the power to reserve or deny professional doctors upon admission reserve PG courses.

However, the bank said doctors must sign a bond for five years of service in remote / rural areas.

The bank believed that the MCI regulation, which excluded such a reservation, was unconstitutional and arbitrary. It is said that upon completion of PG, states should formulate a system for rural / remote service by professional doctors.

State lawmakers have the power to make reservations for working doctors. However, government regulations must provide employment bonds for five-year service in rural / remote areas for the person who gains PG approval through this reservation, the bank said.

The verdict came on a plea by petitioners including doctors from Kerala, Maharashtra and Haryana that providing reservation services would encourage those who work in state hospitals and rural areas.

Doctors had questioned the validity of the MCI’s 2000 Postgraduate Medical Education Regulations.

Fifty percent of places on PG graduate courses are reserved for public service doctors, but MCI regulations have banned this from doing so on PG courses. Admission to PG courses is through the NEET, and 50 percent of the seats are awarded through the entire India quota and the remaining 50 percent through the state quota.

The working applicants had stated that they were working around the clock for the good of the public and could barely find time to update their knowledge and compete with the general earnings candidates.

The central government and the MCI had opposed the plea alleging that granting reservations or a separate source of entry to professional applicants would directly affect the MCI’s authority to coordinate and set standards of medical education.

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