NEET PG to be held after August 31: Karnataka HC agrees with Centre Decision
Bengaluru: Taking note of the fact that the decision to postpone NEET-PG 2021 was taken in view of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, and observing that this is only a case of postponement and not cancellation, the Bengaluru Bench of Karnataka High Court has recently dismissed a plea that challenged the Central Government's decision to postpone the NEET PG 2021 for a period of...
Bengaluru: Taking note of the fact that the decision to postpone NEET-PG 2021 was taken in view of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, and observing that this is only a case of postponement and not cancellation, the Bengaluru Bench of Karnataka High Court has recently dismissed a plea that challenged the Central Government's decision to postpone the NEET PG 2021 for a period of four months.
Before dismissing the petition, the Court also took note of the submission by the counsel for Centre, which clarified that the dates of conducting the examination would be notified after August 31, 2021 and the authorities would also ensure that the students get time for their preparation.
A division bench of Justice B V Nagarathna and Justice Hanchate Sanjeevkumar observed, "This is not a case where there is cancellation of NEET this year. It is only a case of postponement of the Test from April-2021 to a period subsequent to 31st August 2021. It is needless to observe that the said postponement is in the background of the "second wave" of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to enlist the services of doctors for duties so as to manage the medical facilities and attend to the patients suffering from the disease. The decision of the Union of India to hold the Test after 31st August 2021 in our view, cannot be faulted, inasmuch as the decision would have been on the basis of the opinion of experts and on sound discretion being exercised by the second respondent-Department."
The High Court was listening to a petition filed in public interest by the President of Late G.B. Kulkarni Memorial Legal Trust. The petitioner contended that the post-graduate medical aspirants were desirous of appearing in the entrance examination, i.e. NEET PG 2021, which is an All India test conducted to allot seats to successful candidates pursue their PG medical education across the country.
He submitted that the exam was postponed only one day before the date it was scheduled to be held, i.e. 18.04.2021 and this was not in accordance with law and the decision itself is arbitrary. Further he pointed out that the decision resulted in stress, anxiety and depression in the doctors and aspirants as their plans to pursue post-graduation got unsettled on account of procrastination.
Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that in a major slew of announcements, the Prime Minister's Office had announced its decision to postpone NEET-PG for at least 4 months and utilize the services of fresh pass-outs for COVID duties.
Contending that when all the other examinations are being conducted during the pandemic, there is no reason to postpone NEET-PG, the petitioner submitted, "Therefore, the postponement of the NEET for a period of four months from 18.04.2021 is assailed in the writ petition."
The petitioner further brought to the Court's notice that last year the Supreme Court had rejected permission seeking postponement of holding NEET. Considering the previous decision of the Apex Court, this year the Central Government could not have unilaterally postponed the test.
He also pointed out that the test was originally scheduled to be held in January 2021 and it got postponed due to the pandemic. Submitting that it is not known when the test would be finally conducted, the petitioner filed the petition in Public Interest seeking directions upon the concerned authorities to hold the test as early as possible and without any further procrastination.
The Assistant Solicitor General, on the other hand, supported the decision of the centre and submitted that due to the severe nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected the Country from March 2021 to May 2021, the decision to Postpone NEET was taken in mid-April by the Central Government.
Arguing that the decision is not arbitrary and was taken due to the serious nature of resurgence of COVID-19 pandemic, the counsel for the Centre further submitted that this is a policy decision concerning academic schedules and matters and the Court may not interfere with it.
He also pointed out that the NEET aspirants, the medical interns and the final year MBBS students have been recruited by the Government to assist the doctors in the hospitals to attend the Covid-19 patients during the severe nature of the pandemic.
"It is only account of the circumstances that emerged that it was decided to postpone the NEET so as to enlist the services of the doctors including NEET aspirants for COVID-19 management and duties. In that regard, it was also stated that once the pandemic subsides, a date will be notified for holding the NEET for post-graduate medical students aspirants and they would be given sufficient time to prepare," further submitted the counsel appearing for the Central Government.
After listening to the contentions of both sides, the Court observed that the severity of the pandemic was much graver than last year and the "second wave" of the pandemic has affected the people from all walks of life and the number of new cases increased especially during the months of March, April and May. Thus, the decision to postpone the NEET was taken only in the middle of the second wave of the pandemic considering the rapid surge of cases and post-recovery complications.
"This is not a case where the said postponement has been made at the last moment in order to adversely affect the aspirants, rather, the decision would have been after a serious deliberation and owing to the situation as it emerged in April-2021," noted the High Court bench.
Ruling that the decision to postpone NEET was taken by experts only on the basis of the circumstances, the High Court further observed,
"The decision of the Union of India to hold the Test after 31st August 2021 in our view, cannot be faulted, inasmuch as the decision would have been on the basis of the opinion of experts and on sound discretion being exercised by the second respondent-Department."
Further referring to the previous year decision of the Apex Court which declined to postpone the examination earlier, the High Court bench pointed out that the pandemic was not as severe last year and the doctors were not asked to perform duties as well. However, considering the present condition, "if such doctors have offered their services during the period April-July, then they would require time to prepare for the Test. Hence, the postponement of NEET to beyond 31st August, 2021," noted the court.
Agreeing to the submission of the Additional Solicitor General that the matter relates to a policy decision taken by the Central Government, and in the absence of any arbitrariness the Court could not interfere in academic issues, the High Court bench dismissed the petition.
Finally, the Court also informed that as per the submission of the Additional Solicitor General, the dates for NEET-PG 2021 would be notified after August 31, after giving time to the aspirants for preparation. "Once the Union of India has appraised of the fact that the pandemic would subside, medical graduates would be having at least one month to prepare before the Test," the counsel for the Centre submitted before the Court.
To view the original court order, click on the link below.