Showing posts from July, 2013

A case for reviving NEET

Guest article by S Vaidhyasubramaniam
In the judicial Waterloo at the Supreme Court (SC), the Medical Council of India’s one-stop solution National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) was neatly laid to rest. Some mourn. Some celebrate. I mournfully celebrate; celebrate the reinforcement of private institutions’ right but mourn for the opportunity lost. The ageless rhetoric of rural-urban divide and the legal weaponry that drilled the constitutional armoury ensured the SC missed the opportunity to streamline the admission chaos. SC’s puritan legal discipline failed to check the medical college admission indiscipline. Justice V R Krishna Iyer in State of Kerala vs T P Roshana (1979 AIR 765) defined the karuna of the law. He wrote, “The rule of law should not petrify life or be inflexibly mulish. It is tempered by experience, mellowed by principled compromise, informed by the anxiety to avoid injustice and softens the blow within the marginal limits of legality. That is the karuna of the…

Send doctors for rural medical service

Observing that some countries have made military service mandatory to instill nationalism among youths, Bombay High Court has asked Maharashtra government to take cue from them and inculcate discipline among doctors and send them to rural areas to render medical service after graduation. 

"When the government takes a bond from medical students making it mandatory for them to serve one year in rural hospitals and public health centres, then why posts are still lying vacant in these hospitals?" a division bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and S.C. Gupte questioned. 

    The bench was hearing a PIL filed by one Purnima Upadhyay, seeking proper implementation of schemes introduced by both the central and the state government to reduce malnourishment in Melghat area of Maharashtra. 

    The court was informed that in 2012-13, there were 4,878 posts available in district hospitals and rural health care centres. As many as 6,930 candidates were available but only 1,702 students remai…

Compulsory rural postings for MBBS students are not the answer

Guest article by Mythili Bhusnurmath
The government’s plans for a longer – six and a half years against the present five and a half - MBBS course with the additional one year being devoted to compulsory rural posting is like many government plans – well-intentioned but impractical. Unless basic infrastructure facilities are provided in the rural areas, mandatory rural postings will degenerate into postings that are ‘rural’ only on paper.
Few, if any, of today’s MBBS students will be willing to go and rough it out in our villages especially in the heartland where there a lack of basic civic amenities and even law and order is noticeably absent. Much like schools in rural areas where absentee teachers are the norm, compulsory rural postings for MSSB students will only lead to primary health centres with absentee doctors.
What we need in the rural areas is basic health care – it is estimated that 80 % of common medical problems and ailments can be treated at the level of primary healthcare …

NEET Verdict: A Body Blow

The Supreme Court’s split verdict quashing the newly-introduced single entrance test for medical courses across the country, viz., the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), is a blow to thousands of meritorious but poor students who will be unable to seek admission in private colleges owing to the unaffordable fee structure. The ruling, on the very last day in office of the Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, continues the disturbing trend of the Apex Court turning business-friendly under the reign of some recent Chief Justices of India. It is appreciable that the Union Health Ministry plans to file a review petition against the verdict, partly because it is a split verdict and partly because it was improper that a crucial decision allowing private medical colleges to mint money through ‘donations’ or capitation fees was announced without consultations amongst bench members, allegedly on grounds of “paucity of time”. This is an invalid pretext to rush a decision through; future judic…

Alleged leak of SC NEET verdict will have to be looked into: CJI

Chief Justice of IndiaP Sathasivam has said the alleged leak of the NEET verdict on common entrance test for medical colleges before its pronouncment on July 18 will have to be inquired into. 
However, he ruled out investigation as of now, saying it was only the media reports that suggested that the verdict was leaked. 
"I came to know from media, nobody will accept this, nobody should encourage this, we are following very strict procedure, I don't know how it has come, we have to inquire," Justice Sathasivam told reporters on the sidelines of a function to felicitate him on taking over as the CJI yesterday. 
When asked whether he would now order an investigation, he replied in the negative. 
"No, so far it has not come to my knowledge, only through media I'm having this," Justice Sathasivam said. 
The Supreme Court in a 2-1 verdict on Thursday scrapped holding of National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to MBBS, BDS and post-graduate courses …

Deccan Herald Editorial: Flawed test

The quashing  by the Supreme Court of the idea of a National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for medical admissions in the country shows that the government had not thought through the legal, and even the practical  and procedural issues involved in it.   The proposal was to conduct a single national test for  admission to graduate and post-graduate medical courses in both private and government colleges. It was implemented in a hurry this year even when a number of state governments and medical institutions, some of whom are among the best in the country, were opposed to it.  Not only private colleges but prestigious government institutes like the AIIMS in Delhi and the PGI in Chandigarh also opted out of the scheme. The court had given only a conditional nod for the conduct of the test this year, making it clear that it had  reservations about its validity.  
There is a body of established judicial opinion in the country, expressed through many Supreme Court judgments in the pas…

Doctor who?

The position of the NEET has left students and parents worried About 45,600 seats in medical colleges in India. A new, single National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) proposed by the Medical Council of India (MCI) a couple of years ago as a single test for admission to medical and dental colleges, so that students do not have to go through the rigmarole of applying to different colleges in the country travelling everywhere and spending thousands, or even lakhs, on entrance exams. Finally, at the hands of the Supreme Court, the announcement is quashed, leaving students unsure of how to prepare for the entrance exams next year! Although the three-judge bench has made it clear that its verdict will not affect the admissions which have already taken place, students and parents are now confused about next year. “First, there was a problem of the text books and study material, since for a national level test, all the boards have to be on the same page as far as the syllabus in concerned. …

Higher education must be upgraded: Deccan Chronicle commentary

The government has an important policy-making and infrastructure-providing role to play in guiding the country’s education sector. But the wider society and other organs of the state cannot disavow their responsibility if we want India to scale up to the next level of development with properly trained and qualified manpower. The recent judgment of the Supreme Court striking down the common entrance test conducted by the Medical Council of India for all medical colleges in the country, public and private — which was the last for former Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir — is retrograde. It can raise doubts that the judiciary is not cognisant of the issues at stake and has focused too narrowly on the right of private and minority educational institutions in the country to manage their affairs. That, in fact, was hardly the point at issue, whatever the colouring. Private institutions in other educational fields, or minority bodies, have had no occasion so far to complain of having to cede …

The Hindu Editorial: Back to the drawing board

The idea of a National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for medical courses in the country was perhaps too good to succeed. The Supreme Court’s decision to quash the Medical Council of India Regulations that introduced NEET is a direct consequence of the laissez faire in education endorsed by an 11-judge Bench in the TMA Pai Foundation case in 2002. The right to establish and administer institutions under the Constitution was held to include the right to admit students without any interference from the state, subject only to the condition that merit not be ignored. P.A. Inamdar (2005) evolved a triple test for admissions — that they be fair, transparent and non-exploitative — but reiterated that the right to frame such an admission procedure would remain with the unaided institutions. It was too late, anyway, for a smaller Bench to dislodge the earlier ruling that minority institutions had an unfettered right to select or reject candidates based on their own “procedures, beliefs and disp…

A hatchet job, NEETly done

The Supreme Court has struck down the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for medical colleges as unconstitutional, dispelling any doubt as to who calls the shots in India’s higher education sector — private educational institutions that fleece students for capitation fees; private coaching institutes that profit from “customised” State entrance exams lacking uniformity; private banks that provide education loans at exorbitant rates to poor students; and finally, State governments that shore up their vote banks in the guise of protecting minority educational institutions. The Court’s verdict also reminds us who may not have their way in higher education — students who cannot afford to travel to different parts of the country to write entrance exams; students who cannot afford to pay tuition stipulated under management quotas; students who cannot afford to meet the rates charged by coaching institutes; and students from backward socioeconomic classes who cannot compete financ…

NEET or untidy?

Guest article by Anoop Kohli

An outgoing Chief Justice often reserves certain judgments, if they be so timed and be of such value, till his last day in office. It is an occasion more sublime than the one when he took oath. While taking oath, he only goes on record for having occupied the highest constitutional chair. By making a landmark judgment, with the last strokes of his mighty pen, he books a seat in history. Hon’ble Chief Justice Altumush Kabir’s last verdict, on an extremely demanding national issue of the procedure of selection of talent to be trained to be future life savers, was quietly let out after he had stepped down. He must have known that concluding on facts and arguments as placed before him, the verdict that was on the cards was not the one he would have liked to be remembered for. He may, therefore, have asked for it to be released when he was no longer on the high chair. Indeed it was a 2:1 verdict, with Hon’ble Justice Dave dissenting. Justice Dave also mentions t…

Selection not so NEET: Govt modified rules to help babus' kin

The Union health ministry had modified NEET-PG results to help a set of selected candidates during MD/MS counselling. It is learnt that the ministry had tweeked the NEET-PG results to enable the selection of a  group of candidates from Safdarjung Hospital affiliated to IP University, Delhi, and also supported the conduct of split counselling — for Delhi University and IP University that includes Safdarjung Hospital — in order to support the admission of kin of a top ranking official in the ministry , and other influential people. While, according to the MCI criteria for admission to any post-graduate course, it as necessary for a general candidate to obtain a minimum of 50 percentile in the NEET-PG test. For SC/ST and other backward classes, the minimum qualifying percentile was 40. However, after the results were declared, the health ministry on May 31, 2013, in an unprecedented manner ordered for revision in the qualifying criteria for NEET-PG from percentile to percentage basis to all…

An open letter to ex-Chief Justice Kabir

Guest article by  V Raghunathan
Dear Chief Justice Kabir, ‘Law is an ass,’ we are told by Charles Dickens! As an onlooker looking at the way the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for medical degrees has been set aside by you as “a violation of the rights of the private medical colleges to “carry on business guaranteed under Articles 19 (1)(g) and the constitutional guarantee under Article 30 to the minority community to set up and manage educational institutions”, I am inclined to agree with Dickens. Obviously there can be no doubt on the correctness of your interpretation of the law, for I presume that is what the apex court does. But if that is what our laws say, it seems to me that Dickens was right. Sir, your judgment quashing the NEET, given on the very last day of your service, definitely appears retrograde. One hardly ever questions the quality of our Supreme Court judgments, which in most cases have been progressive and reformative and have tended to push our laws towar…

SC’s NEET logic contrary to constitution bench rulings

The Supreme Court quashed the single-window admission system for all medical colleges by faulting the Medical Council of India-prescribed National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Examination (NEET) on three grounds.
The majority judgment, authored by former CJI Altamas Kabir and agreed to by Justice Vikramjit Sen, held that NEET violated Articles 19(1)(g), 25, 26 and 30 of the Constitution, which guarantees a citizen freedom to practice any profession and gives freedom to religious and linguistic minority groups to manage their religious affairs as well as educational institutions. 
The bench said neither the Medical Council Act, 1956 nor the regulations framed thereunder empowered the MCI to formulate and enforce a single-window admission process for medical colleges. The court also said NEET could not ensure a level playing field given the disparity in educational standards in different parts of the country. 
Since the Unnikrishnan judgment [1993 (1) SCC 645], the Supreme Court has been peppe…

Tweaking of NEET results under scanner

Even as the Union health ministry is preparing for a review of the Supreme Court order on validity of National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), its own tweaking of the NEET results and counselling for MD/MS seats at Safdarjung Hospital and Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospitals affiliated to IP University are under the scanner. It is learnt that the health ministry modified the NEET-PG results to enable the selection of a selected group of candidates from Safdarjung Hospital affiliated to IP University, Delhi, and also supported the conduct of split counselling in the state of Delhi, separately for Delhi University and IP University that includes Safdarjung Hospital in order to support the admission of a kin of a top ranking official of the ministry.

While, according to the original criteria prescribed in MCI regulations, in order to be eligible for admission to any post-graduate course in a particular academic year, it was necessary for a general candidate to obtain a minimum of 50 pe…