The Supreme Court came down heavily on the National Medical Commission (NMC) on Monday after taking note of submissions that around 70 per cent medical colleges in the country are not paying the mandatory stipend to MBBS interns.
“What is the National Medical Commission doing? These young doctors are putting 16-20 hours a day…. This is like bonded labour,” a bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said.
The bench said private medical colleges, which take heavy donations or capitation fees while admitting students, are not paying the mandatory stipend to the MBBS interns and asked as to what the NMC is doing as the regulator.
The observations came when a lawyer reiterated the allegation that 70 per cent of the medical colleges in the country are not paying the mandatory stipend to the MBBS interns.
The counsel for the NMC sought some time to collate the information and get back to the bench, which granted the same.
The top court, meanwhile, issued a notice to the Delhi government after taking note of the submissions of the city’s Army College of Medical Sciences (ACMS) that a fee regulatory authority has not been set up in the national capital to deal with such issues.
On September 15, the bench had asked the NMC, the apex governing body for medical education in the country, to look into the allegation that 70 per cent medical colleges are not paying the mandatory stipend to the MBBS interns.
The court had also directed the ACMS to pay a monthly stipend of Rs 25,000 to its MBBS interns from October 1.
Advocate Vaibhav Gaggar, appearing for students seeking a stipend had said that according to a recent NMC report, 70 per cent of the medical colleges in the country are not paying stipends to their interns.
The bench had directed the NMC’s counsel, Gaurav Sharma, to respond to the claim and file an affidavit giving a tabulated chart of the colleges that are paying the stipend to the interns and the ones that are not.
It had said the NMC’s mandate cannot be breached and that interns, who come from different backgrounds, are required to be paid a stipend for the period of their internship.
The top court was hearing a plea of five MBBS students studying at the ACMS, established by the Army Welfare Education Society (AWES) and affiliated to the Guru Govind Singh Indraprashtha University, seeking a stipend for the period of their internship.
The CJI said even the Supreme Court pays Rs 80,000 as stipend to its law clerks and wondered why the college cannot pay Rs 1 lakh to the MBBS interns.
Senior advocate R Balasubramanium, appearing for the ACMS, had said the college has nothing to do with the Army. It does not receive any aid from the defence ministry and is run by the AWES on a no-profit basis with the intention of serving the children of armed forces personnel.
After comparing the different amounts of stipend paid by other medical colleges, the bench directed the ACMS to start paying Rs 25,000 per month to its interns from October 1.
Taking into account the fact that the college is run by a welfare society for the children of Army personnel, the bench granted the institution the liberty to approach the fee regulatory committee in Delhi with a representation on the likely financial impact of the court’s directions.
It said the fee regulatory committee shall determine whether increasing the students’ fees is necessary for the college to meet the additional expenditure on account of paying the stipend to the MBBS interns.