NEET ordinance gets its first challenge in court

A petition challenging the Centre’s decision to promulgate the NEET ordinance has been filed by health activist Anand Rai. Photo: Mint
The ordinance that deferred by a year the Supreme Court order to conduct the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) from 2016 is back in court.
Health activist Anand Rai, known for exposing the Vyapam scam—an admission and recruitment scandal in Madhya Pradesh—on Thursday filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the centre’s decision to promulgate the ordinance.
The petition that sought the quashing of the ordinance questioned the centre’s flip-flop on the issue. The centre had initially accepted the apex court’s order and later partially reversed it through the ordinance.
The centre’s decision was in violation of Section 14 (right to equality), Section 21 (right to life) in terms of its arbitrary character and with regards to the students who would suffer irreparably because of the constantly changing stand by the centre, the petition stated.
The petitioner said various associations across the country have to be treated with equality under law and administrative authority should be exercised to assure a degree of fair decision-making. The centre had given an undertaking and fulfilled criteria for a unified NEET, and yet within four weeks, it passed the ordinance, the petition said, calling the ordinance “arbitrary”.
“This would go on to show mala fide and ill intent towards the admission of students who will ultimately suffer because of this see-saw approach by the centre,” the petition stated.
Rai also pointed to corruption in state entrance exams as a major reason to question the centre’s stand. “NEET should be implemented for all medical colleges from this year itself. State medical examinations are a source of immense corruption, which is evident from the Vyapam scam,” said Rai.
He said that the state entrance tests are usually rigged and are often conducted again. “We need one standard entrance and ensure that it is conducted free and fair,” Rai added.
On states’ concerns over the lack of provision for taking the test in regional languages in NEET, Rai said that medical education is essentially imparted in the English language.
“The Medical Council of India, which regulates medical education, says that a first division in English is compulsory for MBBS. Also, when states do not have issues with engineering or law entrance examinations, then why on the medical entrance?” asked Rai.
Legal experts, however, say that the centre is within its rights to exempt states from NEET for one year. “NEET was scheduled to be held under a central Act, which was upheld by the court holding that it should be implemented this year itself. Personally, I think that if the centre, through an ordinance, wishes to hold the exam after a year, it is within their rights. The centre can take a stand on whether it wants to hold the exam this year or after a year; such a decision is within their realm,” said senior advocate Jayant Bhushan.
Students, though, want clarity on the issue at the earliest.
“The most important thing now is to know whether it is only NEET or not. Performance of many students has suffered because of the lack of clarity,” said Ameya Suri, a student from Mumbai who appeared for NEET that was conducted on 1 May.
Meanwhile, Sankalp Charitable Trust, on whose public interest litigation the apex court passed the order, also said that it is preparing to file a petition challenging the ordinance.
A date on hearing in the case is yet to be decided.

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