Supreme Court order on NEET: less clarity , more confusion (old post)

The decision of the Supreme Court of 28th April on ‘National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test’ (NEET) for admissions in Medical and Dental Colleges will, without doubt, have far reaching consequences. It will certainly give huge relief to lakhs of boys and girls across the country, who will now not have to undergo the rigours of appearing in multiple tests conducted by different colleges and the Governments but equally large number of students is left high and dry. It has thus cleared the decks for a single entrance test for admission to all medical and dental courses in the country. The order would imply that all Government Colleges, Deemed Universities and Private Medical Colleges would be covered under NEET. The Government of India of 21st December 2010 had notified for holding the ‘Common Entrance Test’. It was challenged before the Supreme Court, which was heard by the bench consisting of the then Chief Justice of India Altmas Kabir, Justice Vikramjit Sen and Justice Anil R. Dave. The bench had then rejected the proposed move of the government and also ruled that any examination conducted for admission in the Medical or Dental Colleges would not be liable to be challenged before any High Court of the Country.

The present order of the Supreme Court came on a petition filed by an NGO namely; Charitable Trust, which petitioned before the Court that students had to spend nearly a lakh of Rupees just to apply in different colleges and thereafter lakhs of Rupees in paying capitation fees. Justice Anil R Dave, who had then given a dissenting judgment in the Christian Medical College case, which had rejected the NEET, is a presiding judge in this case.

Three states namely Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh vehemently opposed ‘National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test’. Andhra Pradesh was to conduct examination on 29th of April, a day before the ruling of the Supreme Court was pronounced. Tamilnadu has already started the process of admission on the basis of the marks obtained by students in class XII. This practise of admission in Tamilnadu has been going on since 2007. Christian Medical Colleges also opposed the NEET and they wanted to have their own procedure to be adopted for admissions. The Uttar Pradesh Government also opposed the NEET but the Supreme Court dismissed the objections. Significantly the Bihar Government did not oppose it, although it has already conducted the Combined Pre Medical Test for admission in the Medical Colleges.

The Government of India initially welcomed this decision of the Supreme Court but, however, on the next day the Attorney General- Mukul Rohtagi made an urgent attempt to modify April 28th order and allow the NEET to be conducted in two phases. Even on 30th April the Government made a last ditch effort to avoid the chaotic situation but it was of no avail.
The Court made it amply clear that all those who have already applied for appearing in the examination to be conducted by the ‘Central Board of Secondary Education’ (CBSE) would have appear in the examination being held on 1st May but those who have yet to apply would be given the liberty to take the examination in the second phase to be held on 24th July. It may be noted here CBSE, Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Health Ministry of the Government of India immediately gave an undertaking to the Apex Court that they were prepared to hold the NEET on 1st of May itself. It was on their assurances the Supreme Court stuck to its guns and did not allow any change of dates for examinations. The results would be declared on 17th of August. Thereafter counselling and admissions would start. Last year nine lakhs students had appeared for 50 thousand seats in Government and the private colleges.

There are two opinions with regard to the NEET. One section says that candidates will not have to run from pillar to post to appear at many examinations. It will save their lot of time, money and exertions. But there is another section which says that putting all eggs in one basket is not good for students. Single entrance examination for all medical and dental colleges across the country will adversely affect the children from different parts of the country. Besides, it will not give the quality result because those who have obtained high ranks will get concentrated to a few colleges and left overs would have to go to other colleges. Earlier there used to be good mix of both good and average students. Now there will be filtering from top to bottom. Some colleges will be left to fend with mediocrity. NEET will also put the students from non CBSE boards in the disadvantageous position because their curriculum may not be as high as that of the CBSE.

Many people are expressing apprehensions that NEET would bring windfall for coaching institutes. They will now rake in money as we often see that Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for engineering colleges has helped flourish many coaching institutes in places like Kota. Many brilliant students have not been able get through JEE because they could not afford to go to costly coaching institutes. Now these coaching institutes will hold the key to shape the future of the boys and girls of tender age. But on the other hand, some people hold different opinion and they say that NEET would minimise corruption and irregularities in admissions to medical colleges, which will ultimately safeguard the sanctity of the medical profession. It will also be able to have some ‘standardised benchmark’ because in multiple examination the quality fairly varies and gets compromised. Colleges conducting the examination will have no chance to indulge in the malpractices during admission processes. Unscrupulous money minded persons entering and operating in the field will be largely diminished.

It is seen that those who appear in the Common Test, most of them aim at getting into MBBS and when they do not get into MBBS then they go for the BDS. However, in the NEET if they give preference only for the MBBS, and do not score enough, they will have no chance of getting admission even in the BDS.

Since the decision of the Supreme Court has come at very late stage, it has created immeasurable chaos throughout the country. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Governments are adamant that they will file the Review Petition because Article 371D of the Constitution of India provides for some special provisions with respect to the State of Andhra Pradesh. Telangana would also be entitled to avail the benefits of that special provision as it has been carved out of Andhra Pradesh. This Constitutional Provision denies admission to the students of other states as they can accommodate only 15% students from outside their states.

Nevertheless, as per article 141 of the Constitution of India the law declared by the Supreme Court of India will be binding for all in the country. Therefore, it has yet to be seen that how the controversy is resolved. It is certain that the legal battle will now again be fought in the Supreme Court, where titans will lock horns, which is bound to generate more heat than light in the case. What is, however, more important is the future of nearly one million students and nobody, least of all the Supreme Court, ought to be callous towards them.