Mumbai, Sep 15 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Wednesday said the Union government's policy of not issuing a No Obligation to Return to India (NORI) certificate to medical degree holders wishing to obtain a Green Card in the US, cannot be made applicable to research scholars who don't intend to practice medicine.

A division bench of Justices R D Dhanuka and R I Chagla has directed the Centre to issue a NORI certificate to 27-year-old Avani Vaishnav within five weeks.

The court passed its order on a petition filed by Vaishnav, who is presently in New York, challenging a letter issued by the Under Secretary (Scholarship), Department of Higher Education of the Ministry of Education rejecting her application for a NORI certificate.

The Centre while rejecting the application relied on a policy decision that said NORI certificates cannot be issued to medical practitioners and medical degree holders, as they then migrate to other countries resulting in dearth of doctors in India.

A NORI certificate is issued by the home country to an applicant, certifying that he or she is under no obligation to return to the home country.

The court in its judgment, however, noted that the petitioner had completed her MBBS degree from a private college and accepted the undertaking given by her that she would not be practising medicine in India or in the US and would only do research work.

“There is no obligation imposed by the Indian law, rules or governing authorities mandating that the petitioner is required to practice as a doctor in India for any period of time,” the court said.

“The petitioner intends to carry out research work exclusively in the US and has undertaken to never practice clinical medicine either in India or in the US. In our view, the said policy is not applicable to a research scholar not intending to practice medicine in India or abroad,” the court said.

The bench further stated that the NORI certificate issued to the petitioner must include a clause that if she starts practising medicine in the US, the certificate will stand cancelled and she will be required to return to India.

The petitioner completed her MBBS degree from the D Y Patil college in Maharashtra in 2017, after which she accepted an internship at a hospital in the US and applied for a J-1 visa (research scholar visa) When the same was granted, Vaishnav travelled to the US.

The petitioner in her plea said that the US rules do not permit a person to reside there on the J-1 visa for more than five years and when she applied for a Green Card, she was asked to furnish a NORI certificate.

As per the plea, the certificate was required to waive the Home Residence Requirement imposed by the US, under which persons holding J-1 visa are required to return to India and stay for two years after completion of studies in the US.

In March 2020, the petitioner applied for a NORI certificate, but her application was rejected in July on the ground that such certificates were not issued to medical professionals.

Vaishnav in her plea claimed that she did not intend to practice medicine and was a research scholar, and said she was willing to surrender her license to practice medicine in India.

The Union government in its response to the plea said a policy decision was taken to not issue NORI certificates to doctors and medical degree holders, as a large number of them migrate to other countries resulting in shortage in India.

Appearing for the Union government, advocate R G Govilkar argued that NORI certificate has not been issued to any medical degree holder since August 2011, except in cases where the applicant is more than 65 years of age.

He further submitted that the policy does not make any distinction between medical practitioners and research scholars.