Is life going to get easier for aspiring doctors who now take at least 44 exams to get into a medical college and pay about Rs 2 lakh as exam fees? The Supreme Court (SC), on April 11, recalled its 2013 judgment that scrapped the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET). NEET is a single window competition for entrance to multiple medical institutes.
Following the April 11 order, NEET is likely to be reintroduced again, putting a question mark on the validity of state and private entrance tests for admission to medical colleges.
The 2013 SC judgment had said that NEET did not ensure a level-playing field for candidates because of disparity in educational standards in different parts of the country. The order is related to a Medical Council of India (MCI) versus Christian Medical College case and will be heard afresh by SC. Recalling the 2013 judgment, the Bench said: “After giving our thoughtful and due consideration, we are of the view that the judgment delivered in Christian Medical College needs reconsideration. We do not propose to state reasons in detail at this stage so as to see that it may not prejudicially affect the hearing of the matters.”
NEET, first introduced in 2012, was scrapped a year later. Academic experts feel reintroducing the test will be a good move. Dr SS Agarwal, national president, Indian Medical Association, says, “NEET is a boon for aspirants aiming to join the medical profession. Merit determined by NEET will be the basis of admission to colleges. This will alleviate the hardships of physical, mental and financial burden on the students who are the ultimate beneficiaries of any admission processes. It is our common knowledge that students are being forced to cough up thousands as fees for appearing in multiple exams and also for travel expenses. Students are robbed of the opportunity to stake admission claim to different colleges due to clash of exam days. A single entrance test such as NEET will lower the burden of expenditure, it will encourage students to work in rural and far flung areas.”
Dr Jayshree Mehta, president, MCI, says that the concept of NEET was the brainchild of MCI. The council had, in June 2009, recommended that the Central government approve it under Section 33 of the IMC Act 1956. The Central government gave its approval in November 2010 after the Supreme Court’s intervention.
Despite reports of some state governments like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh expressing reservations about their ability or willingness to conduct NEET, MCI is hopeful that all states will reintroduce the test.“I am optimistic that ultimately considering the interest and welfare of the meritorious students and young generations as a whole, they need to fall in line sooner or later,” says Dr Mehta.
Does the court order mean that all states will have to accept NEET? “The state legislature has to yield to the Union legislature and NEET in any way is not interfering in the reservation ratio or their financial incentives. Article 371-D makes special provisions with respect to the state of Andhra Pradesh,” says Dr Agarwal. NEET can be implemented across the country as the necessary structures are already in place.
“In fact, it will easily achieve its major aim of saving students from being at the mercy of the private/deemed universities. NEET does not violate any fundamental or legal right of an institution/organisation in respect of its running or admission. It is about making a system on how they should admit deserving students. Moreover, only a student who is good at studies is keen to join the medical profession. I strongly believe that standard of education depends on and includes conduct of examination,” says Dr Agarwal.
Interestingly, Justice Anil R Dave, who has written last week’s SC recall order, had a dissenting opinion in the 2013 judgment. He had pointed out that there was no discussion among the members of the bench before the ruling. He had also termed NEET as a “boon” for aspiring medical students.
Read more: Is that a NEET idea?