The Supreme Court Thursday set aside a Medical Council of India (MCI) notification mandating a common National Entrance Eligibility Test (NEET) for both undergraduate and postgraduate medical and dental courses in government and private institutions.
In a majority judgment, Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Vikramajit Sen said: “We also have no hesitation in holding that the Medical Council of India is not empowered under the 1956 Act to actually conduct the NEET.”
“…we have no hesitation in holding that the ‘Regulations on Graduate Medical Education (Amendment) 2010 (Part II)’ and the ‘Post Graduate Medical Education (Amendment) Regulation, 2010 (Part II)’, whereby the Medical Council of India introduced the single National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test and the corresponding amendments in the Dentists Act, 1948, are ultra vires the provisions of Articles 19(1)(g), 25, 26(a), 29(1) and 30(1) of the Constitution,…”, the majority judgment said.
Addressing the practical aspect of holding a single National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, Chief Justice Kabir, pronouncing the judgment, said, “In a single window competition, the disparity in educational standards in different parts of the country cannot ensure a level playing field.”
The court said that there was “no controversy that the standard of education all over the country was not the same and each state has its own system and pattern of education, including the medium of instruction”.
“It cannot also be disputed that children in the metropolitan areas enjoy greater privileges than their counterparts in most of the rural areas as far as education is concerned, and the decision of the central government to support a single entrance examination would perpetuate such divide in the name of giving credit to merit,” the judgment said.
“The desire to give due recognition to merit is laudable, but the pragmatic realities on the ground relating to health care, especially in the rural and tribal areas where a large section of the Indian population resides, have also to be kept in mind when policy decisions are taken in matters such as this”, the court said finding holes in the practical dimension of holding NEET.
Addressing the ground realities, the court said, ” While the country certainly needs brilliant doctors and surgeons and specialists and other connected with health care, who are equal to any in other parts of the world, considering ground realities, the country also has need for ‘barefoot doctors’, who are committed and are available to provide medical services and health care facilities in different areas as part of their mission in becoming doctors”.
However, in a dissenting judgment, Justice Anil R. Dave said: “It cannot be said that introduction of the NEET would either violate any of the fundamental or legal rights of the petitioners or even adversely affect the medical profession.”
“In my opinion, introduction of the NEET would ensure more transparency and less hardship to the students eager to join the medical profession,” he ruledd wondering how the autonomy of the said institutions would be adversely affected because of the NEET.
Holding that except for some institutions having some oblique motive behind selecting students who could not prove their mettle at the common examination, Justice Dave said that NEET would give private and minority institutions better students to select from and even give the benefit of the weightage to the religion, caste, etc in the selection of students.