SC clears way for this year’s medical admissions

The Supreme Court on Monday exempted private and government medical colleges from the purview of National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), the single-window admission route for MBBS, BDS and post-graduate courses, for the academic year 2013-14.

In an interim order, a bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justices A R Dave and Vikramjit Sen said "students who aspire to gain entry into medical colleges at the MBBS, BDS and the post-graduate level have been caught in a legal tangle for no fault of theirs and are the victims of policy decisions". 

"In order to safeguard their interests, as also the interest of the hospitals, we consider it just and equitable to lift the bar imposed by us on December 13, 2012, and allow the results of the examinations already conducted to be declared to enable the students to take advantage of the same for the current year," the bench said. 

However, it did not specify which test result the students should take advantage of - the ones conducted by individual medical colleges or the NEET - if they had appeared for both, which is the case with most aspiring doctors. 

The bench had, as late as Friday, declined repeated requests to lift the interim stay on declaration of results it had imposed on December 13 last year. Two days later, it justified lifting of the stay saying it was in the interest of students and hospitals. 

"Although, initially, we had declined to entertain such prayer, on account of the delay in completion of the hearing and the prospect of students losing a year on account thereof, we feel that students hoping to gain admission in MBBS as well as PG courses on the strength of the examinations, which have already been held and for which they had appeared, should not be denied such opportunity, at least for this year," the bench said. 

This interim order, as far as admissions to PG courses are concerned, may not create confusion as private and government medical colleges can enroll students on the basis of either their own test or NEET. But for MBBS and BDS aspirants, it could create some confusion as only NEET was conducted and most colleges had not yet held their own tests. 

Immediately after the interim order was passed on the first day of the apex court's summer break through a special sitting of the CJI-headed bench, additional solicitor general Siddharth Luthra for the Centre, senior advocate Nidesh Gupta for Medical Council of India and Tarachand Sharma, counsel for Central Board for Secondary Education which conducts NEET, sought clarification on what would be the basis for admission -- individual tests or NEET. 

The court in an oral clarification said results of only those examinations which have already been conducted were being permitted to be declared and assured that the judgment on petitions challenging NEET, which was notified as a single-window admission route to curb unregulated commercialization of medical education, would be delivered on either July 2 or 4. 

For admissions to MBBS and BDS courses, around 7.26 lakh students have appeared for NEET, conducted in eight languages with a test in Urdu scheduled for next month. Luthra and Gupta wanted to know what would be the basis of admissions to these undergraduate courses. The bench clarified that its main judgment, to be pronounced in the first week of July, would take care of it. 

While allowing private medical colleges to admit students to PG courses from their own entrance tests, the bench said, "We are alive to the fact that it is the PG students in medical colleges who take charge of medical treatment of patients in hospitals. Without fresh entrants into the PG courses, even for a year, hospitals are likely to be adversely affected on account of lack of doctors to directly take care of patients in the hospitals." 

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