The Supreme Court on Friday asked the National Medical Commission (NMC), the apex governing body of medical education, to look into allegations of 70 per cent of medical colleges in the country not paying mandatory stipend to MBBS interns.
The top court also directed Delhi’s Army College of Medical Sciences to pay Rs 25,000 as stipend to its MBBS interns from October 1, 2023.
A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra asked the NMC to file a report giving details about the claim of petitioners that 70 per cent of medical colleges do not pay any stipend to MBBS interns and what steps have been taken to ensure payment of stipend to them as per the norms.
Advocate Vaibhav Gagghar, appearing for students seeking stipend said a recent NMC report stated that 70 per cent of the medical colleges in the country are not paying stipends to their interns.
The bench directed NMC’s counsel Advocate Gaurav Sharma to respond to the claim and file an affidavit giving a tabulated chart of colleges which are paying the stipend to the interns and which are not paying.
It said the NMC’s mandate cannot be breached and that interns, who come from different backgrounds, are required to be paid stipend for the period of internship.
The top court was hearing a plea of five MBBS students studying at Army College of Medical Sciences (ACMS) established by Army Welfare Education Society (AWES) and affiliated to Guru Govind Singh Indraprashtha University seeking stipend for the period of internship.
CJI Chandrachud said even the Supreme Court is paying Rs 80,000 as stipend to its law clerks and wondered why the college can’t pay Rs 1 lakh to the MBBS interns.
Senior advocate R Balasubramanium, appearing for the ACMS, said the college has nothing to do with the Army. It was not receiving 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 personnel.
“Can you say we won’t pay the ‘Safai Karamcharis’ (sanitation workers) because we are non profit? It’s a profit for you but it is a livelihood for them. Can you say we won’t pay the teachers? They are young doctors and come from different backgrounds,” CJI Chandrachud told Balasubramanium.
The senior lawyer said the survival of the college needs to be considered and informed that the state fee regulatory commission of Delhi has reduced the fees of the college from Rs 4,32,000 to 3,20,000.
The bench, after comparing different amounts of stipend paid by other medical colleges, directed the ACMS to start paying Rs 25,000 per month from October 1 to its interns.
Taking into account that the college is being run by a welfare society for the children of Army personnel, the bench gave the institution liberty to approach the Fee Regulatory Committee in Delhi with a representation of likely financial impact of the Court’s directions.
It said that the fee regulatory committee shall determine whether enhancement of fees of students of the college is necessary to meet the additional expenditure on account of payment of stipend.