SC paves way for NEET for aspiring medical students

The Supreme Court on Thursday said students aspiring for admission to under-graduate medical courses will have to appear in the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) as it declined pleas for exemption by Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

A bench of Justice Anil R. Dave, Justice Shiva Kirti Singh and Justice A.K. Goel gave its nod to two-phase holding of the NEET by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on May 1 and July 24, the declaration of results on August 17 this year, and counselling and admissions later.

The court also made it clear that by its April 11 order, recalling its July 18, 2013 order, the December 21, 2010 notification making NEET mandatory for admission in undergraduate and post graduate courses stood restored.

Stating that "NEET shall be held", the bench in its order said: "We further clarify that notwithstanding any order passed by any court earlier with regard to not holding NEET, this order shall operate. Therefore, no further order is required to be passed at this stage."

Noting the submission by the states and others who were not party to the proceedings that "it would not be proper to hold NEET", the court said: "We do not agree with the a submission for the reason that the said judgment (July 18, 2013) has already been recalled on April 11, 2016 and therefore, the notifications dated December 21, 2010 are in operation as on today."

By its July 18, 2013 order, the apex court in a split verdict of 2-1 had held that NEET was flawed both procedurally and substantially. While then Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Vikramajit Sen (since both retired) had junked the NEET, Justice Dave disagreed with the majority view.

Appearing for one of the parties seeking to be heard, senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan said: "I can't say that the dissenting judge was pushing his case" and the recall of does not mean that it has been set aside.

The April 11 order was passed by the five judge constitution bench of Justice Dave, Justice Goel, Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice R.K. Agrawal, and Justice R. Banumathi.

The CBSE had divided it into NEET-I and NEET-II, which Additional Solicitor General Pinki Anand informing the court that about 6.5 lakh students would be taking entrance exam in NEET-I and another 2.5 lakh in NEET-II.

"We don't agree with the submission" that it was "not proper to hold NEET", said the bench, declining plea by three states that they have their own statutory regime for holding their separate entrance examinations.

However, the order passed on Thursday today made it clear that not accepting of the plea by Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh would not affect their petitions challenging the 2010 notification of NEET.

Similarly the court rejected the plea by the associations of private medical colleges from Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh that they be allowed to admit students on the basis of exams conducted by them. The CMC Vellore too urged the court it may be allowed to admit students' in undergraduate medical courses on the strength of entrance test conducted by it.

Senior counsel P.P.Rao, L. Nagashwar Rao and Harin Rawal appearing for the Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana respectively, argued that the medical admissions in their states were done on the basis of qualifying or entrance examinations conducted as per their statutory regime.

They told the court that their their regime had the sanction of article 371(d) of the constitution and had received the president's assent, and contended that unless the court hold their statutory regime as void, they could not be asked to follow the NEET route for admission in undergraduate and post graduate medical courses.

Appearing for Tamil Nadu, Nagashwar Rao said that since 2007, the admission in medical course in the state were on the basis of the qualifying marks obtained by the aspirants. He said that if NEET was thrust on them suddenly at this stage, they many not succeed in the competitions at all as all India competition requires a lot of preparation.