The Sindh High Court on Wednesday stopped the Pakistan Medical Commission from conducting the Medical & Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT 2020) that was scheduled for November 15.
The SHC has halted the exam till the formation of an academic board and authority.
“Honourable High Court […] gives 15 days to form [academic board and authority] and thereafter finalise syllabus and then hold MDCAT. Students already registered will be eligible to sit for MDCAT,” said lawyer Jibran Nasir, who fought the case as an advocate for the petitioners.
Later, the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) confirmed that the exam has been postponed.
“The rescheduled MDCAT will be announced after compliance of the directions of the Honorable Court,” it added.
PMC, this year, launched the Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT) to bring “uniformity” into the medical profession.
“The MDCAT is being held to ensure that the aspiring doctors and dentists coming into the health sector have basic minimum academic achievement at the point of entry,” Dr Faisal Sultan, the premier’s aide on health said.
In October, the high court had restrained the government of Sindh from holding entry tests for medical and dental universities and colleges. The decision came on a set of petitions filed when a conflict emerged between federal and provincial authorities over the admission policy.
The PMC moved the high court seeking permission to allow the MDCAT to be conducted on October 18 while pre-medical students approached the bench seeking a restraining order against it.
Moreover, as the date of the exam drew near, protests by a large number of medical students began citing changes announced in the syllabus of the exam. The PMC had earlier promised that the MDCAT exam would not contain any topic aside from the existing syllabus of the students’ respective province.
Justices Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Adnan Iqbal Chaudhry of the Sindh High Court heard the petition today, seeking the deferment of the test, which was a mere four days away.
The SHC, in its order, underlined that since the National Medical & Dental Academic Board had not been formed under the Pakistan Medical Commission Act, 2020, the “MDCAT cannot be conducted”.
According to the court ruling, the Board will have “the powers to formulate the examination structure and standards for the MDCAT for approval of the Council”.
The SHC further criticised a notification issued October 23, 2020, by the PMC regarding the syllabus, in which it said candidates would have the option to mark any questions they believed were beyond the syllabus in an objection form to be provided at the examination center, saying it “created uncertainty and gross confusion and perplexity in the minds of all applicants” and terming it “unreasonable and nonstandard”.
“This is quite a unique idea that every applicant will be provided objection form at the time of entering into examination hall, so first he should be obliged to do audit exercise as to how many questions are out of his syllabus.
“Much time of the candidate would be lapsed and consumed to go through the entire question paper as an examiner and then filling the objection forms.
“No further mechanism has been provided in the above announcement as to how and when the students appearing in the MDCAT will come to know whether objections raised by them were considered and the question considered by them to be outside the identified syllabus have been removed from scoring or not.
“Such unreasonable and nonstandard conditions amount to create hardship, distress and uncertainty amongst the candidates and their future is also on stake unless the proper syllabus is made out by the competent authority with due deliberation and examination of FSC syllabus of the country to make out a common syllabus without any doubts so that the candidates should not be asked to fill objection forms in the examination hall,” the order read.
Earlier in the day, during the hearing, the PMC informed the bench that the entry tests were scheduled for November 15. “The students have been informed via text messages. Roll number and admit cards have also been issued,” the body’s legal counsel said.
A lawyer representing the students confirmed and added that students were told to collect admit cards.
The counsel for the National Testing Service (NTS) said his client incurred losses due to the high court’s October 17 decision to postpone the test. “We need compensation.”
This is a developing story and more updates will be added as soon as they are received. Please keep refreshing the page for timely updates.