The Supreme Court on Tuesday commenced the crucial hearing in the pleas of state governments, private medical colleges and minority institutions like CMC Vellore and Ludhiana seeking nod to hold pre-scheduled separate entrance exams for MBBS and BDS courses which was opposed by Medical Council of India.
It asked the Centre and CBSE to give wide publicity about holding of the second phase of NEET on July 24 through press notes and internet so that those who were unable to take the May test can try their luck.
Before commencing the hearing, the top court asked the Centre and CBSE to provide it with the data about the number of candidates appearing in the first phase of the NEET from each state.
It also took note of the contention raised by various state governments about the language issue, i.e. use of vernacular languages by asking Gujarat Government to place before it the question papers of last two years.
Just before the hearing, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana cited special constitutional provisions to contend that only the state can have the say in holding examination for MBBS and BDS courses.
Jammu and Kashmir government cited constitutional provision of Article 370 read with Article 35 A and section 6 of the J&K constitution to contend that it is the state which is entitled to conduct the test and the students cannot be admitted to these courses from outside the state through NEET.
Further, on the educational aspect, only the state government has the legislative competence and Centre cannot interfere in it.
While a bench comprising Justices A R Dave, Shiva Kirti Singh and A K Goel, was formulating modalities of the hearing, senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the MCI, opposed the contention of vernacular language, saying that the MBBS and BDS course across the country is being taught in English.
The day’s hearing saw Karnataka Private Medical and Dental College Association, Christian Medical College Vellore and Christian Medical College, Ludhiana along with Tamil Nadu Government seeking exemption from the NEET citing various reasons.
Senior advocate KK Venugopal said that the entrance exam in Karnataka is designed to cater to the rural masses and private agency like TCS has been engaged for smoothly conducting the exams at 154 centres across the country and the candidates have been charged Rs 1000 for it.
The submission evoked a reaction from the bench which said “so many states are conducting separate tests and they must be demanding separate fees”.
“The parents and the students have to move from one place to another for taking up exams,” the bench said. Senior advocate L Nageshwar Rao sought exemption for CMC Vellore from NEET saying that the minority character of the institution has to be kept in mind so that there should not any compromise with its autonomy and the same argument was taken by CMC Ludhiana with its counsel saying that it has unique system of entrance in which special paper is on “Bible” to identify the Christian minority.
Rao also argued for Tamil Nadu government contending that the NEET cannot be imposed as the state law for reserving 85% seats and the admission through the marks of class XII has been validated by the Madras High Court.
Rao also claimed that majority of students in Tamil Nadu do not take up the NEET and they prefer to appear in the exam conducted by the state.
The states, opposing NEET, alleged that there are marked differences in syllabus for the state entrance tests and the NEET.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Gujarat, said the state “per se” was not against the NEET but would be “tragic” for the students, preparing for the state tests, will have to take up NEET in such a short span of time.
The similar plea was raised by the counsel for states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and few others. The court would resume hearing in the matter on Thursday at 2 PM and asked the Centre, CBSE and the MCI to either file their responses to various pleas in the registry before the hearing or hand over the same in the court.
The apex court did not restrain any states or private medical colleges from conducting their tests and said that it would pass order after hearing all the parties.
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the CBSE, said that the first phase of NEET was conducted without any glitch and around 6.5 lakh students took up the test.
On Monday, the bench headed by the CJI had said that the fresh pleas of states and private medical colleges for permission to hold their separate tests would be heard on Tuesday.
The apex court had on April 29, said that the entrance test for admission to MBBS and BDS courses for the academic year 2016-17 will be held as per the schedule through the two-phased common entrance test NEET on May 1 and July 24.
On April 28, the court had rejected opposition for holding NEET by states, including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Association of Karnataka Medical Colleges, besides minority institutions like CMC, Vellore.
The apex court order had implied that all government colleges, deemed universities and private medical colleges would be covered under NEET and those examinations which have already taken place or slated to be conducted separately stand scrapped.
It had also revived the government’s December 21, 2010 notification for holding a single common entrance test through NEET with a clarification that any challenge on the issue would directly come before it and no high court can interfere.