The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition seeking to extend the deadline to complete internships needed to be eligible to apply for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test Post Graduate, or NEET PG, exam 2022, reported Bar and Bench. The petition has been filed by doctors, most of whom are final-year medical students.

The petitioners had sought the deadline to be extended beyond July 31, saying that their internship was delayed as they had been performing coronavirus-related duties.

In February, the court had rejected a similar plea and directed the petitioners to approach the central government to postpone the earlier May 31 deadline. The government had then extended the deadline to July 31.

The exam will be held in May and the counselling is scheduled for the last two weeks of July. The classes will begin from August.

On Tuesday, citing Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and Bela M Trivedi said that allowing the extension would disrupt the academic curriculum.

The court said the petitioners’ request to include the Covid-19 duties in their internship would mean that the court would have to micromanage the curriculum, reported Live Law.

“Though there will undoubtedly be an element of hardship, it would not be possible for this stage to disrupt the education of a large body of students,” the court said. “Therefore, at this stage, we will not interfere with the curriculum.”

Justice Chandrachud added: “If we accept their [petitioners’] submission everything will go for a toss and will have cascading effect.”

During the hearing, Bhati noted that deadline had earlier been extended due to the coronavirus situation. She said that the latest to which the deadline could be extended was July 31.

“My lords, the officers who decide these matters are not devils who do not care about the students,” Bhati said. “We do care about the larger public for sure.”

She also argued that the Covid-19 duty period cannot be included in the internship as it does not cover all specialities. “To accept the petitioners’ request will amount to diluting the internship programme,” the additional solicitor general added.

Senior advocate Gopal Shankaranarayan, appearing for the petitioners, that the students were performing their Covid-19 duties on an appeal made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“In these medicines cases, the government of India needs to get its act together,” Shankaranarayan told the court. “They must come with some generosity. It is saddening to see this.”

In their petition, the doctors had argued that when they had enrolled for Covid-19 duties, neither the National Board of Examination nor the colleges informed them that serving as coronavirus frontline workers would would delay internship and also hurt their chances to registers for NEET PG.