New Delhi: Several states on May 3 strongly opposed in the Supreme Court the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for this year on the ground that some states had already conducted their own tests and some were scheduled to do so in the next few days.
The NEET is the common entrance exam for graduate and post-graduate medical colleges across India. Declared illegal by the Supreme Court in 2013 for infringing on the rights of states, the common test was reintroduced by a five-judge bench last month.
Despite strong opposition, a three-judge bench of Justices Anil R. Dave, Shiva Kirti Singh and A.K. Goel indicated that all states must fall in line with NEET as it will save students the trouble of taking multiple common entrance tests and save their parents large sums of fees for the tests. The bench was hearing petitions from various states and private medical college associations seeking stay of the NEET order insofar as its applicability to them is concerned for the 2017-17 academic year.
Senior counsel Vikas Singh, appearing for the Medical Council of India and Dental Council, objected to the states filing applications seeking stay of the NEET order and exemption for this year. He said that as NEET-2 would be held on July 24, all those who did not apply for NEET-1 could apply and take this examination. As results will be declared only on August 17, court hearings could be held in July and completed before the declaration of results.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar and Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the CBSE, sought time to respond to various applications filed and the court asked for their response by May 5.
Justice Dave told senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Karnataka Private Medical Colleges Association and other senior advocates that initially there would be some teething problem as the states conducted and accepted NEET. But, he said, ultimately there won’t be any problem and NEET will be in the interest of the students, and states will have to fall in line. Justice Dave pointed out that at present students have to appear in at least 100 written tests and their parents have spend 1000 rupees for each of these tests.
The present hearing is a sequel to the April 11 judgment of the constitution bench recalling the court’s July 2013 order quashing the NEET notification. Since the December 2010 notification on NEET stood restored, the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Union Territory of Puducherry and the Karnataka Private Medical Colleges Association filed applications seeking stay of the operation of the NEET order passed on April 28 (allowing NEET in two phases) and to exempt them from the test for this year.
Venugopal, submitted that Karnataka had passed a legislation for conduct of common entrance tests, by the state and by the Association of Medical Colleges. This year the exam is to be held by the state on May 4 and by the association on May 8 in over 150 centres in which over 1.20 lakhs will participate. The association had spent 8 crore rupees for the exam being conducted by Tata Consultancy Services. He said when there was a Central law and state law, the Central law will prevail. But at present, the Medical Council of India Act did not provide for NEET and the 2010 Regulation was issued through an executive order. He said the executive order cannot override a statute of the state government. He wanted exemption for this year.
Senior counsel L. Nageswara Rao, appearing for Christian Medical College and the state of Tamil Nadu said the CMC had been conducting a separate test for over two decades. Being a Christian minority institution, students who are admitted have to serve in various hospital run by missionaries and for this purpose only 3,000 rupees is charged from them as tuition fee.
The bench intervened and asked the counsel “what is the difficulty in taking students from NEET. You admit only those students who are willing to serve in the hospitals as per your requirement.” The counsel said when the CMC was allowed to conduct its own test all these years, why should the court interfere now at this stage when all arrangements had been made for holding the test.
Referring to Tamil Nadu, Rao said the state had passed a legislation in 2007 abolishing entrance tests for admission to medical and engineering courses. Students are admitted only on the basis of their higher secondary marks. He said over 90% of students in Tamil Nadu were taking their examination as per the state board syllabus and since the NEET was in the CBSE syllabus they will be severely handicapped. Further, since students did not have the opportunity to appear in any entrance test, asking them to appear in the NEET without any preparation will pose serous problems.
Many states submitted that the April 28 order had been passed without giving a chance to hear the plight of students. If implemented this year, thousands of students would be made to suffer. Further, they said NEET, which is to be conducted in English and Hindi, would adversely affect students of southern and non-northern states as they otherwise would be taking the state entrance exams in English or respective vernacular language. Arguments on the case will resume on May 5.