NEET does not violate rights of minorities: SC

NEET does not violate rights of minorities: SC

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In an important judgment, the Supreme Court, on Wednesday, held that the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, a single entrance exam for admission to medical and dental courses, would not violate the rights of minorities to run their own institutions and impart education.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and MR Shah said the NEET has been prescribed by the legislature in the larger public interest.

The prescription of NEET is definitely in order to improve the medical education, co-related to the improvement of public health, the Court said.

"NEET intends to weed out evils from the system and various malpractices which decayed it. The regulatory measures in no way interfere with the rights to administer the institution by the religious or linguistic minorities," the bench said.

The top court rejected a plea by minority-run Christian Medical College (Vellore) and others to conduct their own test for admission to under-graduate and post-graduate medical courses.

In its ruling, the bench said, "We hold that there is no violation of the rights of the unaided/ aided minority to administer institutions under Articles 19(1) (g) (right to practice profession) and 30 (right minorities to establish and administer institution) read with Articles 25 (freedom to practice religion), 26 (freedom to manage religious affairs) and 29(1) (right to conserve distinct language and culture) of the Constitution by prescribing the uniform examination of NEET for admissions in the graduate and postgraduate professional courses of medical as well as dental science."

The Court said provisions of the Medical Council of India (MCI) Act and regulation cannot be said to be ultra vires or taking away the rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

The MCI amended its regulation on March 10, 2017, providing for common counselling for admission to MBBS and post-graduate medicine courses on the basis of NEET.

The unaided minority institutions contended that State has no power to compel them to admit students through a single centralised national examination such as NEET. The unaided minority professional colleges have the fundamental rights to choose the method and manner in which to admit its students, subject to satisfying the triple test of having a fair, transparent and non-exploitative process.

They claimed the system of examination of some of the institutions is wider on an all-India basis, and they test general ability also, whereas, in NEET, evaluation is based on three subjects, namely, Physics, Biology and Chemistry. They have an elaborate procedure of the assessment, and they do not admit students only based on their theoretical knowledge.  

With the introduction of NEET in 2016-17, institutions have been compelled to admit students through NEET instead of their method. Some of them have the All India Entrance Test. They have their unique procedure of admission for MBBS as well as post-graduation.

The top court rejected all these contentions, saying NEET has been made applicable to such premier institution like All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and so many others.

"The decision has been taken considering the overall national scenario, there cannot be any exemption, otherwise, there would be no end to such claims and multiple examinations," the bench said. 

The bench made it clear that we cannot restore the overall derogatory situation which prevailed before introduction of NEET.

"Still, there are several loopholes which are to be plugged in the admission procedure. Unscrupulous practices are being adopted by private colleges of not admitting students sponsored by centralised counselling committee. The minority and private institutions have to admit students based on merit in the permissible category, based on NEET as per procedure prescribed under the Act and Regulations," the bench said.