Corridor talks and a web article predicted doom for NEET in SC

The Supreme Court corridor talkshad much before the delivery of the judgment on Thursday accurately predicted the fate of NEET — the single-window entrance cum-eligibility test for 38,000 MBBS, BDS and MD seats offered by government and at a premium by private medical colleges. 

The buzz turned out to be right even about the precise grounds that Chief Justice of India (CJI) Altamas Kabir and Justice Vikramjit Sen cited to scrap the NEET: that MCI and DCI did not have statutory jurisdiction and uniform entrance scheme violated the fundamental rights of both private and minority educational institutions. 

Considering that few would have read the draft verdict as well as the premium that SC has traditionally put on secrecy, the clairvoyance of the corridor struck many. 

Interestingly, an article captioned "Into the Darkness" by advocate Gopal Shankarnarayan and uploaded on website "Bar and Bench" at 8.36 am on Thursday — a good two hours prior to the pronouncement of the judgment — not only predicted that the petitions by private medical colleges would be allowed by Justices Kabir and Sen on the ground that MCI had no jurisdiction to notify NEET, but also that that Justice A R Dave would dissent. 

Shankarnarayan wrote: "In a little while, on his last day in office, the Chief Justice's court will deliver the much awaited judgment concerning the validity of the national medical entrance test to be conducted by the Medical Council of India." 

"For the better part of the last week, senior counsel and junior advocates alike have without compunction shared a story that the appeals by the private colleges will be allowed with a declaration that the MCI has no jurisdiction, and that Justice Dave will dissent from this view. The judgment, it is confidently touted, runs into more than 190 pages and in excess of 300 paragraphs. It is my fervent hope that this tale is false - a figment of some perverse and destructive mind. In a few hours, we will know the truth," the advocate wrote. 

Justice Kabir's short tenure as the CJI — from September 29, 2012 till July 18, 2013 — was peppered with controversies: be it for the way the Sahara-Sebi tussle was heard out of turn by the CJI-headed bench when it was pending before another two-judge bench. Many were puzzled also when a CJI-headed bench took up the petition by Bharti chief Sunil Mittal and Essar promoter Sashi Ruia for quashing of summons in a 2G case when the main case was pending before a separate two-judge bench. 

Selections for higher judiciary also attracted attention because some of the interesting choices made by the collegium. 

Shankarnarayan notes these aspects but does not forget to give credit to Justice Kabir where it was due. "To be fair to Kabir, his demeanour as a judge saw very little change when he came to occupy this high office. He continued to be a complex man - tardy with sittings, patient with the junior bar, arbitrary with listings, and for the large part, good-humoured," he wrote in the article. 

"Last week, Chief Justice Bhattacharya of Gujarat leveled some hard-hitting criticism at (Justice) Kabir for having superseded him because he had objected to the latter's sister being appointed to the Calcutta High Court merely a few months before she turned 60. Kabir's rancour at this was evident when he took the unprecedented step of writing to the Government stating that Bhattacharya and two others had been overlooked by the Collegium "because their elevation as such would prove to be counter-productive and not conducive to administration of justice"," he added. 

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