A division bench of the Bombay High Court’s Aurangabad bench directed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Human Resource Development on Tuesday to reconsider the case of a Mumbai-based doctor-researcher who has been forced to return jobless to India from the US after the Centre refused to issue him a ‘No Obligation to Return to India’ (NORI) certificate.
Observing that the refusal to issue NORI certificate to the petitioner, Sunil Noothi, for his medical research work in University of Kentucky is “not fair, reasonable and proper”, the bench of Justice Sangitrao Patil and Justice R M Borde directed the health ministry to reconsider his case and allow him to return to the US as long as he does not practise medicine outside India.
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The court gave three months to the government to take a decision on Noothi’s NORI application.
In the petition, Noothi (39) has said he has been working with University of Kentucky since 2013 in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics.
The cancer research he was carrying out in the US was not available in India and he had “invested huge time and money on the research project”. He previously worked with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai.
In December 2015, the government refused to re-issue his NORI certificate to extend his stay in the US. For a year now, Noothi has been living in Mumbai with no job.
According to the health ministry, since August 2013, the provision of NORI certificate to doctors has been stopped except for those above 65 years of age in an attempt to plug the skewed doctor-patient ratio in the country. A NORI is government’s no objection for a person wishing to work abroad. While medical students are permitted to study abroad, they have to return to India to practise.
The government respondent said in court that there are 6.9 lakh doctors in India; however, four lakh more doctors are needed by 2022 considering the country’s population.
According to government statistics, Indian doctors are working in the UK and Canada to the extent of 30 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.
The respondent added that there is an “increasing trend among Indian doctors of not returning to India after completion of their study in the USA”.
The bench observed that since Noothi is not practising and is purely a research scholar, he should be given NORI certificate to carry on his research work on cancer.
The court also observed that he will not practise medicine even if he is forced to live in India.
According to advocate Rahul Totala, at least 6,000 such doctors have approached him with apprehensions of NORI certificate ever since the government took the decision to balance doctor-patient ratio in the country.
“Our petition in court has been accepted and the matter will be soon taken up,” he said.