Tamil Nadu moves Supreme Court against NEET’s constitutional validity | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Tamil Nadu moves Supreme Court against NEET’s constitutional validity

ByAbraham Thomas
Feb 19, 2023 01:44 AM IST

The Tamil Nadu government moved the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of NEET, alleging the single-window examination for admissions to medical colleges across the country violates the principle of federalism, which is part of the basic structure of Constitution

New Delhi: The Tamil Nadu government on Saturday moved the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), alleging the single-window examination for admissions to medical colleges across the country violates the principle of federalism, which is part of the basic structure of Constitution.

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The Tamil Nadu government also claimed that NEET takes away the autonomy of states to make decisions regarding education.

In its petition filed under Article 131 of the Constitution, which allows the Supreme Court to adjudicate disputes between the Centre and state/s, the Tamil Nadu government sought a declaration from the court to hold Section 14 of the National Medical Commission Act, 2019 prescribing a common test for admission to undergraduate and post-graduate medical courses as “ultra vires” the Constitution on multiple grounds.

“Introduction of NEET is violative of the federal structure, as it takes away the power of the states to admit students to government seats in medical colleges,” the state government said in its plea.

The plea alleged that NEET violates right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution as it “discriminates against students from rural areas and state boards”. The state said NEET is modelled on CBSE/NCERT syllabus, which puts rural students at a loss. “Also, they (students from rural parts) lack economic resources to afford coaching classes which puts them at a greater disadvantage to access medical colleges in the state despite good scores in their state boards,” the state alleged.

Tamil Nadu has witnessed widespread agitation over the entrance exam, with protesters calling it discriminatory against those from rural backgrounds or state boards. The state government has attempted to exempt itself from the exam through an ordinance, and negotiations with the Union government but has not been able achieve the desired outcome.

Though education is a subject on which states can legislate, “the introduction of NEET for admission to all medical colleges, irrespective of whether they are private or under the state or central government, is in violation of the federal structure and the autonomy of the states to make decisions regarding education,” the state government said in its plea, challenging the common entrance test.

Tamil Nadu is the first state to file a suit against the Centre on the issue of NEET. Voicing its concern for the student community, the state said it is constrained to approach the court as the continuance of NEET exam has “adversely” affected students, particularly from rural areas and students studying in state board-affiliated schools.

“These students, though talented and securing higher marks in their Class XII examinations, are unable to compete on an equal footing with the urban and semi-urban students with more resources,” the state argued, adding that the examination pattern under NEET is “substantially different from the syllabus set by the Tamil Nadu State Board of Education.”

However, the state faces a legal hurdle as the application of NEET to states was upheld by the Supreme Court in a 2020 decision in Christian Medical College vs Union of India case. The state has urged the court to hold that this judgment is not binding on the government seats in the state.

The state government said that the 2020 judgment had upheld NEET on the ground that it was required to curb the evil of unfair practices – granting admission based on paying capacity of candidates, charging capitation fee, large-scale malpractices, exploitation of students, profiteering, and commercialisation — all of which do not arise with respect to admission to government seats.

It was on December 21, 2010, the Medical Council of India (now replaced by National Medical Commission) issued a notification making NEET mandatory for admission to medical courses. A similar notification was issued by the Dental Council of India in 2012 and subsequently a common entrance was brought for admission to homoeopathy and Indian medicine courses as well.

The suit has also challenged related provisions for conduct of common entrance for admission to dental, homoeopathy and Indian medicine courses.

The MCI notification was challenged by Christian Medical College among others and the top court in 2013 held it to be invalid. However, a review petition came to be filed by a NGO and the judgment was reversed in 2020 and the same holds the field.

Prior to NEET, Tamil Nadu used to hold its own Common Entrance Test (CET) for admission to medical colleges in the state for filling the state seats. In 2006, the Tamil Nadu government enacted the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Admission in Professional Courses Act, which said that admission to such courses shall be based on marks obtained by the students in qualifying examinations held by the State Board for Class XII. The CET conducted by the state was based on the State Board syllabus.

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