Month before multiple medical entrance exams, SC brings back common test
NEW DELHI: Just a month before separate entrance tests are to be held for government and private medical colleges, the Supreme Court on Monday revived the common entrance examination - National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) - putting lakhs of students in confusion.
A Constitution bench of Justices A R Dave, A K Sikri, R K Agrawal, A K Goel and R Banumathi recalled a controversial judgment delivered on July 18, 2013 which had quashed NEET. It said the "majority verdict" delivered by then Chief Justice Altamas Kabir did not consider an earlier SC judgment that was binding on the bench, nor had he consulted other members of his bench.
Justice Dave, who was part of the bench headed by Justice Kabir, had dissented strongly, complaining that he was not consulted, possibly because of paucity of time as the then CJI had delivered the verdict a day before his retirement. Justice Dave had then ruled in favour of NEET, but Justices Kabir and Vikramjit Sen quashed the test.
Monday's decision is seen as a shot in the arm for efforts to weed out malpractices in admissions, such as capitation fees and discretionary criteria, used by private colleges to indulge in profiteering by circumventing a merit-based selection system for allotment of MBBS, BDS and PG seats.
Lakhs of students appear for medical entrance examinations for admission to more than 400 colleges every year to compete for more than 52,000 MBBS seats. Since 2013, state governments and private colleges have conducted separate examinations for these.
Monday's order leaves Medical Council of India with the onerous task of conducting the NEET at a short notice as students have already filled out forms for several entrance tests. Immediately after judgment reviving the NEET was pronounced in open court the recalling the previous order, stunned lawyers, appearing for private colleges, pleaded that the SC clarify the consequences.
The bench replied that "natural consequence" was that NEET comes into force. It said the court would give a fresh hearing on constitutional validity of NEET but in the meantime, the exam will be restored. The lawyers then pleaded that the MCI's notification to bring NEET back be stayed till its validity was decided afresh and said that in 2013, too, an interim stay was given. The bench, however, rejected the plea saying the interim order was only for one academic session and it could not continue. "After giving our thoughtful and due consideration, we are of the view that the judgment delivered in Christian Medical College needs reconsideration," the bench said.