Confusion prevailed over the National Eligibility Entrance Test on Friday as the Centre asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its order to hold the test in two phases. The government also said states should be heard in the matter.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court brushed aside stiff opposition from states and private colleges to rule the NEET be held in two phases – the first on May 1 and the second on July 24. Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi suggested on Friday that instead of a two-phased NEET, it can be held on one day on July 24.
An apex court bench headed by justice Anil R Dave said the court would consider hearing the matter later.
Rohatgi also suggested that court allow the exams being conducted by the state governments along with the NEET for this year.
The court was urged that if there was any difficulty in the bench sitting on Friday, then the hearing could take place on Saturday (April 30) as it involved the future of lakhs of students.
The SC order came after the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) and the Medical Council of India (MCI) gave a joint undertaking to conduct the exam in two phases.
CBSE counsel, additional solicitor general Pinky Anand, said the board had fixed May 1 for the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT) and that would be rescheduled as the first phase of the NEET. She said over 670,000 students had already enrolled themselves for the paper.
According to Anand, around 250,000 students were left who, she said, could be accommodated in the second phase after they deposited the required fee.
“Combined result of both the tests shall be declared on 17th August, 2016. CBSE will provide All India rank. Admitting authorities will invite applications for counselling and merit list shall be drawn based on All India rank,” the bench ordered, directing state governments, institutions and police departments to extend necessary support for the NEET.
“If there is any difficulty with regard to implementation of orders of this court, the stakeholders may approach this court,” it said, disposing an application filed by a trust seeking the NEET be held this year.
On April 11, a five-judge SC bench had recalled its 2013 verdict quashing the MCI notification introducing the NEET. The judgment was delivered on a batch of petitions challenging the common entrance exam. But there was uncertainty over whether the NEET would be implemented this year as the top court decided to examine the MCI’s notification afresh.
The states and a consortium of private colleges contested the application on the grounds that some colleges had already held exams. Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan took strong exception to justice Dave heading the three-judge bench to decide the application. He said the judge dissented in the 2013 verdict. “It’s a dissenting judge pushing his case,” he told the court.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the MCI, created an uproar after he said students who did not enrol themselves for the AIPMT were not “serious medical students”.
“In view of the submissions made on behalf of the respondents, we record that NEET shall be held as stated by the respondents. 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,” the bench said, dismissing the states’ contention that they be allowed to carry on with their exams.
The court clarified that its order would not affect the case before a constitution bench on the NEET’s legitimacy.
The Union health ministry welcomed the move and offered all the help to conduct the exam successfully. “Despite the challenges to conduct the exam this year, the ministry is geared up to work with the other partners and stakeholders to ensure that the entrance exams are successfully held,” health minister JP Nadda said.
“The first phase of NEET will be conducted as per schedule for government college seats and the second phase will include all medical colleges under the purview of MCI, including deemed universities,” a senior MCI official said.