On October 15, the Supreme Court expressed serious concerns about the non-payment of stipends to MBBS interns, likening the situation to “bonded labor.” This issue has been raised in a plea, stating that 70% of medical colleges do not pay any stipend or are not paying the minimum set stipend to doctors undergoing MBBS internships. A bench consisting of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra was overseeing this matter.
“This is like bonded labour. These are all students who have finished 4 years…what is NMC doing? They allow big colleges to take crores and these poor students who work at 20 hrs a day, they’re not paid at all.”The CJI remarked
In the previous hearing, the court had directed the National Medical Commission (NMC) to respond to the complaint and provide a tabulated chart that addresses whether the claim about the lack of stipends for medical interns is accurate and what steps the NMC is taking to ensure compliance with stipend norms for internships.
NMC Seeks Time
Advocate Gaurav Sharma, representing NMC, requested four weeks to prepare a response to the issue at hand. The court granted this time extension.
The primary concern raised in the petition filed by medical interns related to the payment of stipends by the Army College of Medical Sciences (ACMS). During the previous hearing, Senior Advocate Colonel (Retired) R. Balasubramanium, representing ACMS, explained that the institution is run by the Army Welfare Education Society (AWES) on a non-profit basis to serve the children of armed personnel. He mentioned that the college receives no government aid. However, the court emphasized that financial constraints should not be a reason to deny stipends to the students.
Stipends Paid as Per Supreme Court’s Directions
The court was informed that the interns in question had been paid in accordance with the court’s directives. Advocate Tanvi Dubey represented the petitioners in this case.
The Supreme Court did not hold back in its criticism of the National Medical Commission. It expressed deep concern over the fact that around 70% of medical colleges in the country are not paying the mandatory stipend to MBBS interns. The court questioned the role of the NMC, especially in regulating private medical colleges that charge substantial donations or capitation fees. The court’s bench, including Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, compared the situation to bonded labor.
Delhi Government’s Notice
In response to the submissions made by Delhi’s Army College of Medical Sciences (ACMS), which mentioned the absence of a fee regulatory authority in the national capital to address such issues, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Delhi government. The court directed ACMS to start paying Rs. 25,000 per month as stipends to its MBBS interns from October 1.
The Supreme Court stressed that the NMC’s mandate must be upheld, and interns from diverse backgrounds should receive stipends during their internship. The court also made a comparison, mentioning that even the Supreme Court pays Rs. 80,000 as a stipend to its law clerks and questioned why the college cannot pay Rs. 1 lakh to MBBS interns.
The bench acknowledged that the college is run by a welfare society for the children of Army personnel and allowed the institution to approach the fee regulatory committee in Delhi. This approach would help determine whether increasing student fees is necessary to meet the additional expenses incurred by paying stipends to MBBS interns.
Awaiting NMC’s Response
The Supreme Court has granted the National Medical Commission four weeks to respond to the allegations made. This case, titled “Abhishek Yadav and others v. Army College of Medical Sciences,” originated from a plea filed by five MBBS students seeking stipends during their internship.
The Supreme Court’s strong stance against the non-payment of stipends to MBBS interns sends a clear message about the importance of upholding the rights of medical students and ensuring they are compensated for their hard work. The NMC has been given a month to provide a response, and the matter remains under scrutiny.
The petitioners were represented by Advocate Tanvi Dubey.
Case Title: Abhishek Yadav and Others v. Army College of Medical Sciences