The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Medical Council of India (MCI) to clarify if it had power to fix an upper age limit of 25 years for admission to MBBS/BDS courses, in the absence of any regulation.
A Justice Dipal Mishra headed bench posting the matter for March 20, asked Senior Counsel, MCI, Vikas Singh to clarify the council’s position on the next hearing.
“List on March 20 to enable Senior Counsel Vikas Singh to satisfy the Court that age-limit can be fixed without any regulation”, the Court stated in its order notes Bar & Bench
The bench also made clear, that petitioners in this case would only stand to benefit, if they had approached the courts before the last date of submitting their forms, for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET).
The counsel despite conceding that the regulation was pending with the Centre, said that such a decision could be taken through an executive order.
Justifying the stipulation of age limit, Mr. Singh gave the example of the Legal Aptitude Test (CLAT) whose upper age limit was 22 years and for admissions to the IIT-25 years.
Prior to January 31, there was no upper age limit to compete for admission to the MBBS/Dental courses through NEET. This year’s application forms have been released, and the examination is scheduled for May 7.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had taken the decision to introduce a cap on age-limit in January this year following a meeting of the University Grants Committee(UGC) in January this year. According to the notification issued on January 31, the upper age-limit to be eligible to sit for NEET is 25 years.
There is also a cap of three attempts, but NEET 2017 is to be counted as the first attempt for students.
Rai Sabyasachi in a petition to the SC challenged the MCI set age limit, stating that there is no regulation or procedure under the MCI Act, authorizing prescription of such an age-limit criteria.
The Court issued notices to the Central government and MCI in the matter, on February 17.
The total no of MBBS and dental seats in various medical colleges across the country total at 63,835 and 27,000 respectively; Approximately 7.5 lakh students compete for these seats every year, reports Tribune.
Last week, MCI had defended its regulation stipulating an upper age limit of 25 years, with a maximum three attempts for admission to MBBS/BDS course, saying study of medicine required “sharp young minds”.
In an Affidavit in the Supreme Court, the MCI stated:
“It is unfair to make a young student giving the NEET examination for the first time to compete with a much older student who had more time to prepare and had already given several attempts.”
The MCI further added, “Age is a major factor in determining the capability of the student to learn…the study of medicine requires rigorous study and training imparted during the MBBS/BDS course and, therefore, sharp young minds are required to absorb the same. This is the reason that most Countries in the world prefer only young students in professional courses e.g. medicine.”
It said: “A young student pursuing studies in MBBS/BDS course will be able to grasp the teaching and training imparted in the medical colleges with more ease and efficiency. Hence, it is imperative that these young students are given the maximum opportunity to make the most out of the teaching and training imparted in the medical college and to enable them to develop skills which would help them in becoming great doctors,” reports the Tribune