While the Sindh government is set to hold a retake of the Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT) on Nov 19, the controversy surrounding the key exam refuses to go away as six candidates approached the Sindh High Court against holding of the fresh test and some others contested their plea, it emerged on Monday.
Also, the federal and provincial law officers questioned the maintainability of the petition against the retake.
A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi, conducted the hearing of the petition and issued pre-admission notices subject to the maintainability of the petition.
The court fixed the matter for hearing on Nov 2 and directed the parties concerned to file their respective comments, if any, on the next hearing.
Six petitioners impugned a notification issued by the Sindh health secretary on Oct 7 for retake of the MDCAT.
They cited the ministry of national health services, Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), provincial secretaries of health and education departments, Jinnah Sindh Medical University (JSMU) and Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) as respondents.
Petitioners’ lawyer Rafiq Ahmed Baloch and others submitted that the six students had appeared and passed the MDCAT-2023, which was organised by the JSMU on Sept 10.
The counsel expressed their grievance against withholding of the result and retake of the MDCAT on the recommendation of an inquiry committee, whose decision was also approved by the Sindh cabinet on Oct 12.
They submitted that as per the decision, the Sept 10 test had been cancelled and MDCAT-2023 would be conducted afresh on Nov 19 through DUHS.
The lawyers contended that on the basis of mere allegation about leakage of the test paper and in order to accommodate their dear ones, the Sindh government was attempting to undo the earlier test without the approval of the PMDC.
They submitted that the PMDC had also not authorised DUHS to hold such a test and since the petitioners and other large numbers of students had obtained good marks, they had legitimate expectancy to be given admissions in the medical and dental colleges of Sindh.
The bench noted that before issuance of notices, Advocate Sohail Latif Memon appeared in court and filed power (vakalatnama) on behalf of some other candidates who had also appeared in MDCAT-2023, and pleaded to become intervener in the present proceedings.
The lawyer argued that almost all the candidates were willing to appear in the retake as the report of the inquiry committee, which was placed before the provincial cabinet, transpired that the test paper was leaked and sold amongst students throughout the province.
Therefore, he further submitted that the result of the previous test could not be relied upon in respect of successful candidates.
The counsel for interveners also argued that the petition was misconceived and not maintainable for the reason that the petitioners did not have any vested right to seek a declaration with regard to their admissions on the basis of merely appearing in the entry test.
He contended that under similar circumstances, an identical petition was also filed before the Peshawar High Court that dismissed it on Oct 3 and a copy of the same was also placed on record.
The bench in its order also said that Deputy Attorney General Khaleeq Ahmed and Additional Advocate General Ali Safdar Depar were present during the hearing and they had also vehemently opposed the contentions of the lawyers for the petitioners and raised objection on the maintainability of the petition.
They argued that since the inquiry committee had already filed its report, which had been duly approved by the Sindh cabinet, previous MDCAT could not be made a base for seeking any relief, as being sought by the petitioners.
They also maintained that there had been serious violations in holding of the test and the petitioners could not be allowed to claim any vested right.
The federal and provincial law officers sought time to seek instruction and file comments.
“Subject to maintainability of instant petition, let pre-admission notice be issued to the remaining respondents to be served through first three modes for 02.11.2023 to be taken up at 11:00 am, when reply/comments, if any, shall be filed with advance copy to the learned counsel for petitioners,” the bench in its order concluded.
On Sept 10, over 40,000 students from across Sindh had appeared in MDCAT organised by the JSMU. Allegations of paper leak forced the government to order an inquiry. The probe body found that the MDCAT paper was in fact leaked four to five hours before the test began. Later, the caretaker chief minister had announced that the MDCAT would be organised afresh through the DUHS.