Can states prescribe minimum qualifying criteria for MBBS beyond MCI norm? SC to decide
New Delhi: Trying to decide if after the introduction of the National Eligibility cum Entrance State (NEET), it is possible for a State to take a decision regarding the educational qualifications required for admission to medical and dental courses, the Supreme Court bench has recently listed the matter on August 13.
The issue reached the Apex Court after the Assam Government challenged the earlier order of Gauhati High Court dismissing the rules prescribed by the State Government seeking 60% aggregate marks for getting admission to medical and dental courses.
Rule 4(2), as prescribed by the Assam Government, gave the detailed criteria for the mode of selection for the State of Candidates, duly qualified in NEET entrance examination. The minimum qualification for appearing in NEET has been set at 50% aggregate marks.
On the other hand, the Assam Government mention in Rule 4(2) that those who obtain a minimum of 60% aggregate marks in Physics, Chemistry and Biology in the qualifying examination, would be called for counseling for admission in MBBS/BDS courses in the State quota seats.
As per the latest media report by Live Law, the rule was challenged before the Gauhati High Court and the petitioner had questioned whether after the introduction of NEET, the all India entrance examination for medical admission, States could still continue to prescribe qualifications for admission into medical colleges which is higher than the eligibility qualification for appearing in the NEET.
The petition had also questioned if such a separate direction issued by the State regarding the eligibility criteria would fall short of the 1956 Indian Medical Council Act and the 1997 Graduate Medical Education Regulations.
While considering the case, the HC had observed that the erstwhile Medical Council of India (MCI) had introduced the NEET, the uniform entrance examination and had fixed that in order to get admission to medical courses, a candidate must secure a minimum of 50% percentile in the NEET examination.
It was also mentioned in the admission notice of NEET that for admission a candidate needs to pass the subjects of physics, chemistry, biology/biotechnology and English and also get an aggregate of 50% marks in physics, chemistry and biology in the qualifying examination.
Besides, the High Court had also taken note of the fact that Section 19A of the 1956 Act empowered the erstwhile Medical Council of India (MCI) to prescribe minimum standards of medical education required for granting undergraduate medical qualification by universities or medical institutions in India.
Noting that the 1956 Act was amended and section 10D and section 33(mb) were inserted with effect from 2016, the HC had observed at this outset, "While 10D provides for uniform entrance examination for undergraduate and postgraduate level, section 33 confers power to the MCI, with the previous sanction of the Central government, to make regulations to provide for various aspects as indicated therein. Thus, with the insertion of section 33(mb), the MCI is empowered to make regulations to provide for designating authority, other languages and the manner of conducting of entrance examinations to all medical institutions."
However, the order of the HC was challenged before the Supreme Court and while the hearing of the case on Friday, the counsel for the Assam Government contended that the introduction of NEET doesn't take away the State's jurisdiction for having higher standards, adds Live Law.
In this context, the Supreme Court bench comprising of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud and M. R. Shah noted, "There is a judgment of the Supreme Court which says that once the NEET has come into inception, the admission has to be through NEET only."
The counsel appearing for the Assam Government also referred to an earlier judgment of the Supreme Court in Yatinkumar Jasubhai Patel v. State of Gujarat. In that case, the bench had noted that "Institutional Preference" in the Post Graduate Medical Courses is permissible even after the introduction of the NEET Scheme.
It has been contended by the State of Assam that although section 10 D deals with holding uniform entrance examination at the UG and PG level in India, it doesn't mention the requisite qualifications for admission at the state-quota seats which is provided in the Exam Rules of 2017.
"Section 10D of the 1956 Act prescribes a uniform entrance examination for undergraduate and postgraduate level through designated authority instead of holding separate entrance examinations state wise, region wise, etc and it nowhere prescribes the eligibility for admission into medical colleges of the country. The High Court while deciding the writ petition acted on the misconception that the eligibility criteria prescribed for appearing in the NEET is the eligibility criteria for admission into MBBS course," the State was quoted arguing by Live Law.
Contending that the State has the competence for prescribing rules for higher/ additional qualifications for medical admission, the State submitted before the Court that higher/additional qualifications ultimately serves the public interest as more meritorious students get admitted to MBBS/BDS courses.
"Merit should be the sole criteria in admission to higher educational courses and the impugned Rule 4(2)(c), providing for higher qualifying marks of 60%, does not defeat, but rather furthers the merit criteria and ensures selection of better students," the State has further argued.
Referring to the Information Bulletin for NEET 2018, the State has further contended that the Bulletin had clearly mentioned that the State counseling authorities would fill up the State quota seats as per the eligibility and admission criteria fixed by the State only.
"In spite of due diligence, the information bulletin could not be placed before the writ court at the time of adjudication of the writ petition and had the information bulletin been placed before the court, the impugned judgement of August, 2019 would have been very different. The review court discarded the same on technical grounds," the State submitted before the Apex Court.
After listening to all the contentions the SC bench referred to Supreme Court judgment where MCI was also a party. Directing the State's counsel to get in touch with the MCI advocate and peruse the judgment, the bench listed the matter to be next heard on August 13. However, the Court didn't issue notice on the SLP.
"We will consider. You also read that judgment we indicated. We will have this next Friday," noted the Apex Court bench.