India Today: New Delhi: Wednesday, March 08, 2017.
Answer keys to the qualifying test for allowing foreign medical graduates to practice in India cannot be disclosed as it would "dilute the standards" of healthcare, the CIC has held.
Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad gave this order on the plea of an RTI applicant R Seshadri who had sought from the Medical Council of India (MCI) the question papers along with the solutions, together commonly referred to as answer keys, for the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE).
Any medical graduate who had passed out from abroad, except some countries like the USA, Canada, New Zealand, has to undertake the test.
Only after qualifying in it the graduates can practice in India as registered medical practitioners.
"...if public disclosure of questions is allowed, this would lead to dilution of standards by encouraging cramming which would be against the objectives of this screening test," the Information Commissioner said.
The MCI had refused to provide the answer keys citing exemption given under the RTI Act for the information pertaining to commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property.
"FMGE is aimed at assessing the depth of knowledge of a candidate and disclosure of questions papers of previous years would diminish the rigour of the examination," the National Board of Examination official said during the hearing.
He also said the questions designed for the FMGE are limited in number and disclosure of past question papers would be counter-productive.
"It has been argued by the appellant (Shesadri) that since the past percentage is very low, the system is unfair to the student," Azad pointed out.
He said Shesadri claims that the students who are appearing now in the FMGE are graduates of well-run and equipped medical colleges in China and other places and therefore, be given level-playing field by having a copy of the question papers of previous years.
"The Commission, however, is in full agreement with the NBEs averment...on the issue that the guidelines on the parameters of this exam were laid down by the Supreme Court itself which are being followed assiduously," Azad said.
He said the question bank is limited and has been compiled with questions being contributed by the experts in the area.
"These experts have forfeited their proprietary right over the questions supplied to the NBE. The NBE does not have any commercial interest in guarding this question bank zealously," Azad said in his order.
The Information Commissioner said the registration of a doctor with any State Medical Council has an impact on public health and hence should be only done after proper screening.
He said in the case of doctors acquiring a foreign medical degree, it is of "critical importance" that they go through the screening test to meet the exacting standards before getting registered as doctors.
"Im left with no doubt to conclude that disclosure sought in the present batch of appeals is not in line with the object of the RTI Act, 2005...," he said. PTI ABS AAR.