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SC stands by April 28 order on NEET

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday stood by its April 28 order giving the go-ahead for the conduct of the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test 2016-17 in two phases for admission to undergraduate medical and dental courses despite strong objections raised by several States claiming that the common entrance exam is interfering with their prerogative to hold separate tests. A Bench of Justices Anil R. Dave, Shiva Kirti Singh and A.K. Goel separately dealt with the pleas raised by States and private or minority-run medical colleges, including CMC Vellore, against NEET.

Students waiting to appear for the NEET medical exams in Bengaluru on Sunday. Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

The court told the States and private institutions that the “teething difficulties” would resolve on their own.

While the Gujarat government submitted it was “torture” to impose the NEET on students already mentally prepared for State entrance exams, Tamil Nadu reiterated its argument that the State does not have a legacy of entrance exams since 2007. States like Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana invoked special provisions in the Constitution to contend that only the State and not the Centre had the legislative competence to conduct examinations for MBBS and BDS courses.

Challenge to autonomy

Minority-run professional colleges, led by CMC Vellore and Ludhiana, voiced the apprehension that NEET would be a challenge to their very autonomy and identity.

Karnataka Private Medical and Dental College Association said private agencies like TCS have been roped in to design the conduct of entrance exams and reach out to the rural students.

The association said 154 centres have been opened across the country.

Karnataka Advocate General Madhusudan Naik said the State conducted its own entrance exams to fill seats in 13 government medical colleges for which Rs. 60,000 annual fees are charged against the cost of Rs. 5 lakh.

The association lawyer and senior advocate K.K. Venugopal referred to the recent suicide by an IIT-JEE aspirant in Kota to press his point that students, especially from rural areas, are already under mental stress, and the sudden change in their schedule through the re-introduction of NEET in such a short span of time would only make matters worse for them.

When Gujarat highlighted its concern that lack of use of vernacular languages in NEET would cripple the efforts of many students including those with rural backgrounds, the court asked it to place on record the question papers of the past two years while MCI lawyer and senior advocate Vikas Singh objected to English being the medium of instruction for medical and dental courses all over the country.

Equal and fair hearing

The Bench asked the Centre, CBSE and the Medical Council of India to file their responses to the issues raised by the States and private colleges. It assured the stakeholders of an equal and fair hearing before any decision is taken.

It took note of the smooth conduct of the first phase of NEET, which replaced the AIPMT, on May 1.

Even as Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand said the expected 6.5 lakh of students had appeared in the first phase, the court directed the CBSE and the Centre to provide the data on candidates who appeared from each State.