TN Panel studying NEET impact is against Supreme Court: Centre tells Madras HC
Chennai: Arguing that the panel constituted by the Tamil Nadu government to study the impact of the MBBS entrance test, National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET) is neither requisite nor valid, the Centre has recently informed the Madras High Court that this move is slight against Supreme Court and an exercise in futility.
The response comes after the Centre was issued notice by the high court over committee formation to look into the impact of NEET, asking if it had obtained the permission of the Supreme Court and whether the move would not violate an apex court ruling.
Abolition of the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET) is a poll promise of the ruling DMK and it had recently set up a high-level committee led by a retired judge of the Madras High Court, A K Rajan, to study the impact of NEET on aspirants from the socially disadvantaged sections in medical admissions.
According to media accounts, during a recent hearing on the matter before the HC on the PIL petition from BJP State general secretary K Nagarajan challenging the validity of the NEET committee, the Centre told the bench that a panel has no jurisdiction to go into the issue.
"The ruling DMK had last month constituted the panel, headed by retired high court judge AK Rajan, to analyse if NEET had an adverse impact on students from backward classes and if so, the committee would recommend remedial measures to the government. In its reply-affidavit to a petition by BJP state general secretary K Nagarajan, which sought to quash the state government order constituting the panel," the Centre said a conjoint reading of the relevant provisions of the Constitution makes it abundantly clear the executive power of the State to set up such a commission is restricted to subjects within its legislative competence.
It was submitted that the Supreme Court in Christian Medical College Vellore Association v. Union of India and others and connected matters had held that the provisions of a uniform examination of NEET is not opposed to social principles as enshrined in the Constitution and India's social fabric and that it does not take away rights guaranteed under Article 30 (1) read with Articles 19 (1) (g), 14, 25, 26, 29 (1).
"It is limited in respect of subjects enshrined under List III of the Constitution. In respect of the same, such power of the State is subject to any law made by the Parliament upon the Union or authorities thereof," it said.
"This qualification was enacted to ensure that the Commission would be looking into affairs over which the appropriate government could actually act upon and thus would ensure that the constitution of the committee is not an act in futility. The terms of the commission set up by the state government relates to a matter falling under List 1 Entry 66 and therefore, the Commission so constituted is without jurisdiction," the counter affidavit filed by Chandan Kumar, Undersecretary in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare claimed.
"The Supreme Court had already upheld the validity of NEET against the anvil of the equality code contained in the Constitution. It was held without a pale of doubt that the conduct of NEET examinations is not in contravention to Article 14 nor against the socio-economic polity of the country. In spite of the same, the term of reference of the committee seeks to question whether NEET is an equitable method of selection. This particular term of reference is not qualified as the same had been settled by the Supreme Court. This reference is not only a slight against the status and privilege of the top court but is also an exercise in futility as the law declared by it is binding on all functionaries by virtue of the Constitution," Centre said, quotes PTI.
The counter further added that in light of the fact that the NEET has been given judicial imprimatur by the Supreme Court and that substantial provisions have been enacted under various central legislations to effectively monitor its implementation, the Committee constituted by the Tamil Nadu government is neither required nor valid. In particular, the Committee constituted by the Tamil Nadu government is in contravention of various judgments of the Supreme Court approving NEET along with its various facets. Legislation framed by the State to govern medical education under Entry 25 of Schedule VII of the Concurrent List in the Constitution is subject to the Central government's laws under Entry 66 of List I which concerns coordination and determination of minimum standards in institutions for higher education or research and scientific and technical institutions.
The executive power of the State, including the power to set up a Commission, is restricted to subjects within its legislative competence. The terms of the Commission set up by the Tamil Nadu government, however, relate to a matter falling under List I of Entry 66, in which matters the Union government has the power to legislate. Therefore, the Commission constituted by the Tamil Nadu government is without jurisdiction, the centre submitted, reports Bar and Bench.
"The field of medical education is also being statutorily regulated by Central legislation, i.e. the National Medical Commission Act, 2019. The objective of this Act is to provide for a medical education system that improves access to quality and affordable medical education. The National Commission has absolute competency when it comes to establishing a commission to look into questions of affordable medical education. The Commission would enjoy similar autonomy in respect of inquiries affecting socially backward communities. As such, nothing inconsistent to this law can stand legally. Therefore, the State cannot constitute a high-level committee to study the impact of NEET on medical admissions," the centre further added.
The first bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee is scheduled to hear the PIL on July 13.