NEET ordinance ‘quite disturbing, without taste’, Supreme Court tells Centre
However, it refuses to stay ordinance; freeze on law will trigger chaos as lakhs of students across 17 States have already written exams, it says.
In a cold rebuke, the Supreme Court on Thursday described the NDA government's move to issue an ordinance defeating the intent of an apex court order on National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) “quite disturbing and without taste”.
A three-judge Bench of Justices Anil R. Dave, S.K. Singh and A.K. Goel however, refrained from staying the ordinance for altruistic rather than legal reasons. It said that though it found the “validity of the NEET ordinance open to doubt”, an intervention now would do more harm than good to lakhs of students geared up for the stage two of NEET scheduled on July 24.
Besides, it noted that a freeze on the ordinance at this stage would spell chaos for the other lakhs of students who have already given their State exams across 17 States, that is over half of the country.
Faced with the wrath of the Supreme Court over its ordinance on the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), which the Bench described as “quite disturbing and without taste”, the government explaining that the ordinance was not an “affront” to the authority of the apex court.
The three-judge Bench of Justices Anil R. Dave, S.K. Singh and A.K. Goel was hearing petitions filed by Sankalp Charitable Trust and Vyapam scam whistleblower Anand Rai on how the government took the liberty, by issuing the May 24 ordinance, of donning the role of an “appellate court of the Supreme Court”. They wanted the Supreme Court to quash the ordinance as unconstitutional.
“We find that even after our order on May 9, several States ignored us and continued with their own exams. This was not in good taste,” Justice Dave observed. “Your move to bring this ordinance despite our order was not proper. It was unwarranted. It should not have happened. When the court said 'no' to State exams, you disregard us and issue an ordinance for State exams... Did you not think about the confusion it would cause to the children? After all these are our children,” Justice Dave addressed Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, representing the Centre.
‘Option’ for States
Mr. Rohatgi said the ordinance was not meant as an affront to the Supreme Court's authority. He said the ordinance merely opened an “option” for States to either opt for NEET or conduct their exams exclusively for State seats for the current academic year. He submitted that the government could have “abolished” NEET if it had wanted to circumvent the May 9 order. “But we did not do that. Our ordinance only amends the NEET notification. Who are these people here to come to court? If States or students have a grievance with our ordinance, they have to come to court. They have not come,” Mr. Rohatgi countered.
“By issuing this ordinance and delaying the compliance of your order by a year, the government engaged in a judicial function... became your appellate power. This is about respect for an institution under the Constitution. Once an order is passed, it has to be complied with,” Amarendra Sharan, petitioners' counsel, submitted.