No Exemption Can Be Granted From NEET: Supreme Court

Admission to all medical courses in the country, even those run by minority and private organisations, will be on the basis of National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) scores, the Supreme Court said today. "There is no violation of rights of minority institutions to come under NEET. At present, education is devoid of its real character of charity; it has become a commodity," a three-member bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and MR Shah said while making it clear that the rights of minority organisations would not be affected by the use of a common entrance test for prospective medical students.

"It is not possible to prescribe further examination over and above NEET that cannot be said to be workable, no exemption can be granted from NEET, considering the objective with which it has been introduced. We find that the uniform Entrance Examination cannot be said to be unreasonable regulatory framework," the court said. 

NEET is conducted by the National Testing Agency or NTA annually and the next edition, according to Human Resource Development Ministry officials, is expected to be conducted in June. Last year, out of the 14,10,755 candidates appeared 7,97,042 qualified for admissions in various medical and allied undergraduates courses in the country.

The court while disposing of a petition by Christian Medical College Vellore Association also said that, "Considering the terms and conditions for affiliation and recognition for professional medical and such other professional courses are binding, and no relaxation can be permitted in the conditions".

Minority institutions had challenged the admission process under NEET, arguing it affected the rights of minority unaided private professional institutions.

They also argued that minority institutions must be allowed to have a separate admission exam - over and above NEET.

The court rejected both views.

"Uniform Entrance Test qualifies the test of proportionality and is reasonable.  The same is intended to check several maladies which crept into medical education, to prevent capitation fee by admitting students which are lower in merit and to prevent exploitation, profiteering, and commercialisation of education," it added. 

"The minority institutions are equally bound to comply with the conditions imposed under the relevant Acts and Regulations to enjoy affiliation and recognition, which apply to all institutions. In case they have to impart education, they are bound to comply with the conditions which are   equally applicable to all.  The regulations are necessary, and they are not divisive or disintegrative," the court said.  

Among the institutions which petitioned included Christian Medical College, Vellore, Manipal University, SRM Medical College Hospital and Karnataka Private Medical and Dental Colleges Association.

It said, "The charitable activity of education became a saleable commodity and prerogative of wealthy persons and poor students were forced to get education funded from Banks making it difficult for them to come out of tentacular octave of interest. They are exploited in bud before they bloom into flower. The ill-reputation developed by MCI forced to change its entire structure...The situation is still grim and require to be dealt with firm hand and steely determination".

It rejected submission of some of the minority institutions, that it was open for them to impose higher standards of merit and said that when it comes to national standards and the objects sought to be achieved by NEET, to conduct individual examinations by some institutions cannot be permitted.

The top court said that there is no doubt that there are certain colleges which have produced doctors of international fame and they are an asset to not only for India but for the entire humanity.

Relying on several apex court judgements including a constitution bench verdict of 2002 in TMA Pai Foundation, the bench said, "Thus, we are of the opinion that rights under Articles 19(1)(g) and 30 read with Articles 25, 26 and 29(1) of the Constitution of India do not come in the way of securing transparency and recognition of merits in the matter of admissions...It is open to imposing reasonable restrictions in the national and public interest".

It said minority institutions are equally bound to comply with conditions imposed under the relevant Acts and Regulations to enjoy affiliation and recognition.

"To weed out evils from the system, which were eating away fairness in admission process, defeating merit and aspiration of the common incumbent with no means, the State has the right to frame regulatory regime for aided/ unaided minority/private institutions as mandated by Directives Principles, Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution," it said.

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