Can states prescribe qualifying criteria for MBBS admissions: SC issues notice to NMC, Centre
New Delhi: Observing that the "issue of law needs to be resolved", the Supreme Court has recently issued notice to the National Medical Commission (NMC) and Central Government to decide whether after the introduction of NEET, a State can prescribe additional qualifications for admission to medical and dental courses.
This comes after the Assam Government moved the top court challenging the High Court's order. The issue in these proceedings pertains to whether the State of Assam could decide on the educational qualifications in two ways- (a) that a candidate should have obtained 60% marks in Physics, Chemistry and Biology at the qualifying examination and (b) the candidate should have passed the qualifying examination in one and the same attempt.
Taking note of the judgment in Modern Medical College and Research Centre vs State of Madhya Pradesh (2016) and the amendment by the insertion of Section 10D and Regulation 33(mb), the Apex Court bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M. R. Shah noted that it was open for the State to provide higher qualifications.
Further noting that the advertisement for NEET examination along with the Information Bulletin had also mentioned that it was open for a State to provide its own condition of eligibility and merit, the SC bench has recently issued notice to the Apex medical body, NMC and the Central Government.
Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that, 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.
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.
This 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.
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. During the hearing of the case on August 19, Justice Chandrachud was quoted saying by Live Law, "The requirement of 60% in PCB in the one and the same attempt is associated with the qualifying exam. So if you don't pass this requirement, you can't take the NEET and participate in counselling for admission…"
"A student across India can appear in the NEET if they get an aggregate of 50%. The merit list is also drawn on the basis of the NEET marks. Once a student has qualified for NEET, the admission is only on the basis of the NEET marks. Notwithstanding their gradation in the NEET, can you say that you will deny them admission based on the qualifying exam? Can you deny admission because a student has not secured more marks in the qualifying exam than what the NEET prescribes?" he noted further.
"Also, if I have 50%, though I am a repeater or a compartment student, I am eligible to participate in the NEET and in counselling to seek admission in medical colleges. But now you are saying that we hold you to be ineligible? Because of your prescription, a student otherwise eligible to take the NEET may be deprived", observed the court.
At this outset, Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, representing the State of Assam submitted that the Court was looking at the consequence when the matter the State is focusing on is its competence.
The counsel for the State further referred to the Apex Court's decision in the case of Modern Dental College and pointed out that the judgment indicates that it is open for the states to prescribe higher qualifications.
The bench also took note of his submission that the amendments by the insertion of the aforesaid section 10D and 33(mb) would not preclude the states from laying down higher and additional qualifications.
This is an interesting question. We will consider it", observed the bench in this context.
Further stating, as quoted by Livelaw, "the issue of law needs to be resolved," the bench issued notice to NMC and the Union of India and also granted liberty to the petitioner to implead the two.
To read court order, click on the link below.