ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has reserved the verdict on a dispute regarding the admissions of students from Balochistan and erstwhile Fata to medical colleges on ‘modified’ criteria.

Headed by Justice Yahya Afridi, a three-judge Supreme Court bench on Monday took up a set of appeals against the Peshawar High Court (PHC) involving admissions to medical and dental colleges.

The case pertains to the admission of students from less developed areas through an undergraduate scholarship programme announced by the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

The admission for the year 2022-23 commenced on June 27, 2022, when the Pakistan Medical Commission Act, 2020 was repealed and replaced by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council Act, 2022. The admissions were concluded under the provisions of the PMC Act and the decision was approved and ratified by the council that came into being after the PMDC Act.

AGP says MDCAT must have 50pc weightage in criteria

In its order on May 25, the PHC held that the criteria devised by the HEC for the selection of students violated the PMC Act.

The court had directed the HEC to give 50 per cent weightage to the Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test (MDCAT) scores and allowed it to follow its policy to allocate the other 50pc marks according to its criteria.

The appeal against the PHC decision was moved by Ihsanullah Khan and others through senior counsel Sardar Latif Khosa. The petitions sought the restoration of the merit list issued on April 28, based on the admission criteria in the April 5 meeting of the HEC’s project steering committee for the scholarship programme.

At Monday’s hearing, Justice Afridi said the court “should be fair to both the PMDC and the HEC which is a scholarship granting authority”.

In a statement, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan and Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Aamir Rehman pleaded with the court to dismiss the petitions and uphold PHC’s judgement.

They argued PMDC was the sole regulator for framing rules and regulations for medical education.

The statement emphasised that the existing framework for admission to medical and dental colleges cannot be bypassed by the HEC based on any additional criteria for the scholarship programme.

It said the petitioners had attempted to “superimpose and supplant” the criteria set by HEC for scholarships under the “provision of higher education opportunities for students of Balochistan and erstwhile Fata programme”.

The criteria run contrary to that set by the PMDC under which, 50pc weightage was given to MDCAT scores while the rest of the percentage was made up as per provincial governments’ policies or requirements of private colleges.

“The understanding of the petitioner was based on misreading and a mistaken understanding of the statutory framework as accorded under Section 18 of the PMC Act, 2020.”

The PHC had also explained that the HEC would grant admission against the reserved seats only to those students who had passed the MDCAT test.

The HEC was also asked to revise its merit list wherein 50pc weightage will be assigned to the marks obtained by the student in MDCAT.

Despite PHC directions, the AGP’s statement said, the HEC published a merit formula under which the 50pc weightage to the MDCAT score was not applied.

The statement explained that under the merit formula devised in the project steering committee meeting, 20pc weightage was accorded to SSC examinations, 30pc to HSSC examinations and 50pc to HEC’s test for the scholarship. This formula overrides the statutorily mandated requirement of 50pc weightage to MDCAT scores, the AGP contended.

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2023

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