New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday made it clear in the Supreme Court that all states will have to admit students in medical courses only on the basis of National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET-2) to be held on July 24.
However, since all states strongly opposed NEET and sought exemption this year, a three-judge bench of Justices Anil R. Dave, Shiva Kirti Singh and A.K. Goel indicated that it will consider exempting states which had already conducted (or are to shortly conduct) common entrance tests for admission to medical courses from the applicability of the NEET-2. The bench asked the Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar to take instructions whether the Centre can allow the states to admit students on the basis of CETs conducted on the basis of a law enacted by them.
If the Centre accepts the court’s suggestion tomorrow then Tamil Nadu can admit students on the basis of marks obtained by students in higher secondary examinations and states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, Maharashtra can admit students on the basis of the CET held by them.
The SG made it clear that the Centre was keen that the medical admission for this year must be done only on the basis of the July 24 NEET-2 and states must fall in line, irrespective of the fact of whether they are covered by a state law or not. He said an all-India rank list and a state rank list will be prepared by CBSE and states can continue to admit students on the basis of their law and reservation will also be protected. Justifying the NEET, the SG said it will ensure uniform standards in medical education. A single test was envisaged with the sole objective to provide quality health care for all citizens.
The bench said though it was willing to exempt states, all private and deemed universities or association of private medical colleges will not be permitted to have their CET and that they must fall in line with the NEET for this academic year.
The bench gave this suggestion to the SG to respond after hearing arguments on a batch of petitions from various states and private medical college associations seeking a stay on the NEET order, insofar as its applicability to them is concerned, for the academic year 2016-17.
The bench also asked the Medical Council of India and the Central Board of Secondary Education (which conducts the NEET) whether all students, including those who had participated in the NEET-1 held on May 1, can be given a second chance on condition that students who write for the second time must give up one of their marks.
Earlier, Mr. Ranjit Kumar informed the bench that since the NEET-1 was conducted only for 15% seats, those who did not appear or those had applied but did not write the test might be allowed to participate in the July 24 NEET-2 examination. When the bench wanted to know whether even those who had taken the NEET-1 could be given a second chance, the SG said if a second chance was given then about 30 lakh students will participate in NEET-2 for 85% of the seats.
Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand for CBSE said if all students are allowed then it will not be possible to stick to the schedule. The bench, however, said the schedule can be revised and admission process can be extended beyond September 30. The ASG said she would take instructions as to how the schedule be revised and inform the court on Friday.
Senior counsel Vikas Singh, appearing for Medical Council of India said all private medical colleges and deemed universities must be asked to admit students on the basis of NEET-2. MCI can come out with a scheme to enable poor students to obtain loans from banks to pay their fees and interests of private colleges can thus be protected. The present hearing is a sequel to the April 11 judgment of the Constitution Bench recalling the July 2013 order quashing the NEET notification.
Senior counsel V. Giri for Tamil Nadu drew the court attention to the fact that the State had abolished entrance examinations for admission to all courses from 2007 and admissions are being done on the basis of higher secondary marks only. He said over four lakh students in Tamil Nadu who had taken this year’s 12th examination did not have any opportunity to prepare or appear for any entrance test in the state. He said imposing the NEET on them and compelling them to write an entrance will cause hardship and suffering to students. Further, MCI Regulations cannot override a law enacted by the state which had received presidential assent.
Senior counsel P.P. Rao, appearing for Andhra Pradesh told the court that the state was protected by the presidential order issued under Article 371D of the Constitution and NEET cannot be thrust on them. He Constitutional protection cannot be taken away in the guise of NEET and pointed out that the State Reorganisation Act 2014 had specifically said that the present admission process will continue for 10 years.
Senior counsel Shyam Divan for Maharashtra questioned the wisdom the apex court in passing an order for NEET and said “for doing a small right, the court was doing great wrong for thousands of students across the country.” He said while NEET was based on the two-year CBSE syllabus, the state was following only a one year syllabus for its students. How can you expect parity between state and CBSE students, he asked. Arguments will continue on Friday.