`Doctors can`t treat with unrecognised foreign degrees`

New Delhi: Doctors possessing medical degrees from an off-shore overseas campus cannot practice in India if the certificate awarded to them is not recognised by the country in which the college is located, the Supreme Court has ruled.

A bench of justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale passed the ruling dismissing a bunch of appeals by students of Tamil Nadu-based Vinayaka Medical Research Foundation (VMRF), challenging refusal of the Medical Council of India to recognise their degree from the varsity`s off-shore campus in Thailand.

The MCI had refused to recognise the degree on the ground that the same was not recognised by Thailand and, hence, did not constitute a "primary degree" for the purpose of according recognition in India.

"Admittedly, the provisional degree awarded by the VMRF to these students is not recognised by the Medical Council of Thailand. These students, who claim to have
completed their course in the off-shore campus of VMRF, are not entitled to register the degree awarded to them by VMRF with the Medical Council of Thailand.

"The provisional degree awarded by VMRF to these students, therefore, does not amount to primary medical qualification. The view taken by the division bench that the students do not possess eligibility of primary medical qualification, thus cannot be said to suffer from any illegality," Justice Lodha writing the judgement said.

A division bench of the Madras High Court had earlier upheld the MCI`s appeal against a single judge`s order who had directed the regulatory body to permit the students to write the screening test.

Under MCI`s regulation 2(f) of 2002, "Primary Medical qualification means a medical qualification awarded by any medical institution outside India which is a recognised
qualification for enrolment as medical practitioner in the country in which the institution awarding the said qualification is situated and which is equivalent to MBBS in India."

The apex court said the MCI rules were clear that students passing out from the off-shore campus at Thailand would be treated as those holding a foreign medical degree and required to qualify the screening test as per the provisions of Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and MCI rules.

"Moreover, nothing has been shown either to the high court or to us that the course in Thailand is in any way recognised or is approved by the Medical Council of India," the bench added.