KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Friday restrained the provincial authorities from holding the admission test for medical and dental universities and colleges in the province scheduled to be held on Sunday amid a conflict of approach between the federal and provincial authorities over the admission policy.
A two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar directed the federal and provincial authorities, cited as respondents, to file comments within five days in two petitions and also issued notices to the federal and provincial law officers for Oct 22.
The first petition was filed by five public medical and health universities of the province against the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) and sought permission to allow the Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT) to be conducted on Oct 18.
Some pre-medical students also moved the SHC against the admission test scheduled to be held on Sunday and sought a restraining order against it.
When both the petitions came up for hearing before the bench on Friday, the lawyer for universities, Sarmad Hani, submitted that Section 18 of the recently enacted Pakistan Medical Commission Act, 2020 was ultra vires to the Constitution and the PMC had no right to regulate the entry test nor had any jurisdiction to stop the entry test being conducted by the Peoples University of Medical and Health Sciences for Women, Nawabshah on Sunday.
SHC issues notices to federal, provincial law officers for 22nd
He further argued that the PMC Admission Regulations, 2020-2021 framed by the council under the act had been issued without any lawful authority and had no legal effect and maintained that the notification issued on Sept 24 by the PMC for withholding the admission process in the province was ultra vires to Section 18 of the 2020 Act.
The counsel sought permission to allow the university in question to continue the admission process and the entry test as per schedule and also argued that after promulgation of 18th Amendment, education had become a provincial subject.
On the other hand, the lawyer for the students, Jibran Nasir, argued that the entry test being conducted by the provincial admission committee on Oct 18 as per the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council Admissions Regulations, 2020 was without any lawful authority since these regulations were framed pursuant to the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council Ordinance, 1962 which had already been repealed by the PMC Act.
The lawyer for the PMC submitted that the comments would be filed within three days while similar statements made by the deputy attorney general and additional advocate general.
The bench observed that the bone of contention was the alleged vires of Section 18 of the PMC Act and said that admittedly, the PMC Act had been notified on Sept 24 and the first petition to challenge the law had been filed on Oct 10 and the entry test was scheduled to be convened on Sunday.
However, fact remained that the PMDC Ordinance had been repealed and MBBS and BDS (Admissions, Examinations, House Job or Internship) Regulations, 2020 were also repealed; though counsel for universities argued that the regulations of 2020 were protected despite repealing the parent law, it added.
The bench further said it was a well-settled exposition of law that the validly legislated law remained in field unless it was struck down but the operation of law could not be suspended as an interim measure.
“In 2020 Act, National Medical Authority has been established to conduct a single admissions test being a mandatory requirement for all students seeking admission to medical or dental under-graduate programs anywhere in Pakistan with a further rider that no student shall be awarded a medical or dental degree in Pakistan who has not passed the MDCAT (Medical and Dental College Admission Test) prior to obtaining admission in a medical or dental college in Pakistan. The letters of law is clear that admitting university (petitioner No. 1) cannot conduct any entry test under the new Law,” it added.
The bench observed that the grounds raised by the lawyer for universities with regard to the vires of the law required attention and consideration. But if at this stage the entry test was allowed to be conducted by admitting university, it would have serious repercussions and also create multiplicity of proceedings, hardship and uncertainty and therefore in order to protect and safeguard the interest of all such students it would be in the interest of justice to postpone the entry test rather than allowing it on Oct 18.
“However as an interim measure, the admitting university shall postpone/defer the entry test which is scheduled to be conducted on 18.10.2020 till further orders of this court and all applicants shall be notified through print and electronic media as well as website of NTS,” it concluded.
Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2020