HC Sympathises but refuses relief to NEET 2021 aspirant falling short of age criteria
Chennai: Noting that the NTA's rule on age limit parameters clearly provides a bar of 17 years of age for appearing for NEET, the Madras High Court has refused to allow a 16-year-old candidate to write the test.
Citing an order of a division bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, headed by Justice V Ramasubramanian in 2019 in a similar case, the present bench of Justices Pushpa Sathyanarayana and Krishnan Ramasamy made the observation implying that the National Medical Commission (NMC), previously MCI, should decide on such cases.
The bench pointed out that the 2019 order said, "The Medical Council of India (MCI) should take a call on such cases, as cases of persons whose age falls short by a few days, cannot really be considered as under-aged. The concept of considering a person as under-aged may apply to persons who could not have completed SSLC at a particular time or who could not have completed Intermediate at a particular time and it cannot be applied to cases where the candidates have broadly entered into the required age, but had not completed the same due to the shortage of few days."
However, it also held that a shortage of a few days for the prescribed age qualification need not be an obstacle for an intelligent student seeking admission or writing exams like the NEET.
The case concerns a 16-year-old NEET candidate who moved the High Court challenging the order dated August 9 this year of the National Testing Agency (NTA), refusing to allow her to write the NEET exam, scheduled for Sunday, September 12.
A single judge disposed of the petition with a direction to the petitioner to appear before the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore and subject herself to IQ analysis and if she is eligible to appear in the NEET 2021 examination, she may be permitted to sit in the examination, reports PTI.
Aggrieved over the same, the instant appeal was filed by the NTA.
Senior counsel G. Rajagopalan, representing the NTA, contended that the single judge had erred in allowing the 16-year-old girl to write the test when the regulations clearly state that the candidates must have completed 17 years of age as on December 31, 2020. He said the courts should not interfere in such decisions taken by the National Medical Commission (NMC), reports The Hindu.
The NMC counsel stated that there was a difference between the intelligence of a student and his/her maturity. Stating that certain amount of physical as well as mental maturity was required to undergo medical courses, the counsel said the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of a student could not be considered a measure of his/her maturity.
Adding a rider that she might sound a little rude, the counsel said: "We do not want somebody giggling in the anatomy room after joining medical college." While recognising that the writ petitioner might be a brilliant student with a very high IQ, the counsel said, still, she could not be allowed to write NEET in violation of the regulations.
On his part, senior counsel representing the student, said he was not challenging the age criteria fixed by NMC but only insisting upon carving out an exception for an academically brilliant student. Pointing out that Central Board of Secondary Education had permitted her to write Plus Two examinations, he said, she could not be forced to waste one year to write NEET.
He urged the court to permit the student to write NEET scheduled on Sunday and then take a decision on allowing her to join MBBS or not.
Viewing the contentions, "If a 16-year-old has good knowledge about politics, can we allow him/her to vote in elections?" and warning that a possible poor performance in NEET might also demoralise the student and affect her psychologically, the judges decided to pass orders on Tuesday, as per The Hindu report.
Now during the recent hearing of the plea, the bench while allowing the same and reversing the orders of the single judge, noted that the girl was given double promotion from 7th standard to 9th standard and she was allowed to appear for 10th board examination even before completing 14 years of age and there was no objection all along by the CBSE for the first respondent and even to appear for 12th board examination while she was below the age of 16.
"Therefore, when the girl had been permitted by the CBSE to complete her 12th board examination even before the age 16, we feel that there may be no justification on the part of the NTA to reject her request for age relaxation," the bench said.
However, since the rule specifically provided a bar, this court cannot strike it down. Besides, allowing the writ petitioner to sit for the NEET would open the Pandora''s box and the courts of this country will be flooded with such similar claims.
Moreover, except contending that the writ petitioner has high IQ level and she performed in an intellectually superior range in all the IQ tests, her senior counsel did not raise any other valid ground to take a different view in the matter, the bench said.