Rejecting the states’ demand for their own entrance examinations, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that all admissions to medical and dental courses would be held on the basis of a single National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET).
“It is also clarified that only NEET would enable students to get admission to MBBS or BDS studies,” a bench headed by justice AR Dave said.
However, the court gave relief to students who complained of not getting enough time for NEET-1 held on May 1. It said students would be allowed to appear in the second phase of the test on July 24, provided they gave up their NEET-1 score.
“Prima facie, we do not find any infirmity in the NEET regulation on the ground that it affects the rights of the states or the private institutions,” the court said.
The bench asked the RM Lodha committee, constituted to oversee the Medical Council of India’s (MCI’s) functioning, to supervise the NEET “to ensure total credibility of the examination to be held by the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education)”.
The ruling ends days of uncertainty for students who filled up forms for the states’ common entrance tests.
The CBSE, the court said, could reschedule the date to accommodate more students. The CBSE expected 250,000 students to participate in the second phase. But the order could lead to a rush with more students grabbing the opportunity. The NEET-1 saw the participation of 650,000 students.
A constitution bench of the Supreme Court agreed on April 11 to review a 2013 verdict quashing an MCI notification on the NEET, resulting in the revival of a common test for admission to all medical and dental colleges.
Acting on a petition filed by a non-profit trust, the bench on April 28 asked the MCI and the CBSE to conduct the NEET this year.
The board told the court it had decided to name the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT) as the NEET-1 and fixed the test’s second phase for July 24. Results would be declared on August 17 and the session would begin by the end of September, the board counsel said.
However, the states and unaided institutions, including minority ones, moved applications contending their examinations were pre-scheduled with students already preparing for them. Another objection raised was that several students opted for state tests because the papers were in vernacular languages. NEET papers, however, are in two languages – Hindi and English.
The MCI and the Centre had also come out in support of the states, though both opposed the idea of private colleges holding their own exams. The top court had in a recent judgment disallowed unaided institutions’ tests, preferring a state government paper for having a level-playing field in medical education.
The NEET did not affect the rights of a minority, justice Dave’s bench said. The court found no merit in the Centre and MCI’s contention, too. “NEET only provides for conducting entrance test for eligibility for admission to the MBBS/BDS course. We thus, do not find any merit in the applications seeking modification of order April 28,” the bench held.
“Only other contention relates to perceived hardship to the students who have either applied for NEET-2 but could not appear or who appeared but could not prepare fully thinking that the preparation was to be only for 15% All India seats and there will be further opportunity to appear in other examinations,” the bench noted, opening a window of hope for such students who can sit for the NEET-2.
Though the court upheld a state government’s competence to hold examinations for medical admissions, it said the central law prevailed because education was in the concurrent list.