No common test for BDS, medical: SC

Judgment says NEET will snatch rights of minorities

No common test for BDS, medical: SC

The Supreme Court on Thursday held a common entrance test for medical courses illegal and unconstitutional, stating that such an examination would take away the rights of private, minority and linguistic institutions to admit students.

The judgment delivered by 2-1 quashed notifications issued by the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Dental Council of India for conducting a National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to MBBS, BDS and PG courses.

The majority judgment was written by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, who demitted office on Thursday. Justice Vikramjit Sen agreed with him.

The court pointed out that neither the MCI Act nor the regulations vested the MCI with any authority to conduct examinations or prescribe the NEET.

The regulator could not take away the rights of medical colleges and institutions, including those run by religious and linguistic minorities, to make admissions on the basis of their own rules and procedures, it held. “The power to frame regulations for conducting professional examination is a far cry from actually holding the examination and the two cannot be equated,” the court said.

The court, however, clarified that the verdict will not invalidate admissions already made on the basis of the NEET.

In a dissenting judgment, Justice A R Dave said the NEET would prove to be a “boon” to students aspiring to join the medical profession.

“If only one examination in the country is conducted and admissions are given on the basis of the result of the said examination, in my opinion, unscrupulous and money-minded businessmen operating in the field of education would be constrained  to stop their corrupt practices and it would help a lot, not only to the deserving students but also to the nation in bringing down the level of corruption,” he said.

Referring to different constitutional provisions, CJI Kabir and Justice Sen said the right to admit students was an integral part of the right to administer. It could not be interfered with except in cases of mal-administration or lack of transparency.

The majority verdict held the policy of conducting one pan-India examination as “ultra vires” of constitutional provisions.

“The desire to give due recognition to merit is laudable, but the pragmatic realities on the ground relating to healthcare, especially in the rural and tribal areas where a large section of the Indian population resides, have also to be kept in mind when policy decisions are taken in matters such as this,” the court said.

The court opined that in a single-window competition, the disparity in educational standards in different parts of the country cannot ensure a level playing field while the decision of the Central government to support a single entrance examination would perpetuate such divide in the name of giving credit to merit.

Over hundred petitions were filed in different high courts across the country challenging the MCI’s notification prescribing the NEET. The MCI had later approached the Supreme Court, which had allowed its plea to transfer all those petitions. A group of Karnataka students challenged the NEET in the apex court through their counsel G S Kannur.

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