NEET Only for MBBS, BDS admissions: Supreme Court tells CMC Vellore, other minority institutions
New Delhi: Considering that the concept of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) is the first step "to weed out the evils" from the medical education system in the country, the Supreme Court has recently upheld the UG and PG modes of the entrance test.
With this order, it is clear that NEET for admissions to MBBS, BDS, MDS, MD, MS and PG Diploma courses would apply to minority, both aided and unaided and private educational institutions.
The decision to this effect is based on a bunch of petitions filed by various minority and private institutions which challenged the constitutional validity of the NEET notifications issued by the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Dental Council of India (DCI). Among the institutions which petitioned included Christian Medical College, Vellore, Manipal University, SRM Medical College Hospital and Karnataka Private Medical and Dental Colleges Association.
These notifications were incorporated as statutory provisions in 2016 as Sections 10D of the Medical Council of India Act and the Dentists Act.
Taking account of the uniformity of the entrance test, the bench of Honourable Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and M R Shah said that the uniform entrance test, NEET, which qualifies the test of proportionality, is reasonable and the same is intended to check several maladies which crept into medical education, to prevent capitation fee by admitting students who are lower in merit and to prevent exploitation, profiteering, and commercialisation of education.
Considering that NEET is the first step "to weed out the evils from the system", it would not be in the national interest to step back considering the overall scenario and "if we revert to the old system, posterity is not going to forgive us".
It said the provisions of Indian Medical Council Act and regulations do not ultra vires or takes away the rights guaranteed to the aided and unaided minority institution under various provisions of the Constitution.
"Resultantly, we hold that there is no violation of the rights of the unaided/aided minority to administer institutions under Articles 19(1)(g) and 30 read with Articles 25, 26 and 29(1) of the Constitution of India by prescribing the uniform examination of NEET for admissions in the graduate and postgraduate professional courses of medical as well as dental science".
Holding that the regulatory measures by prescribing NEET in no way interfere with the rights to administer the institution by the religious or linguistic minorities, the top court said that it intends to weed out evils from the system and various malpractices which decayed the system. "Regulatory measures cannot be said to be exceeding the concept of limited governance. The regulatory measures in question are for the improvement of the public health and is a step, in furtherance of the directive principles enshrined in Articles 47 and 51(A)(j) and enable the individual by providing full opportunity in pursuance of his objective to excel in his pursuit...," the bench said while disposing off the petitions.
In its observations, the court said that the regulatory measures are intended for the proper functioning of institutions and to ensure that the standard of education is maintained and does not fall low under the guise of an exclusive right of management to the extent of maladministration.
"The charitable activity of education became a saleable commodity and prerogative of wealthy persons and poor students were forced to get education funded from Banks making it difficult for them to come out of tentacular octave of interest. They are exploited in bud before they bloom into flower. The ill-reputation developed by MCI forced to change its entire structure...The situation is still grim and require to be dealt with firm hand and steely determination".
While rejecting the submission of some of the minority institutions, that it was open for them to impose higher standards of merit and the top court said that when it comes to national standards and the objects sought to be achieved by NEET, to conduct individual examinations by some institutions cannot be permitted.
"The system is not yet out of clutches of unscrupulous devices and dubious means are adopted to defeat merit, the interest of education would further suffer and very purpose of centralised examination would be defeated. It is not possible to prescribe further examination over and above NEET that cannot be said to be workable, no exemption can be granted from NEET, considering the objective with which it has been introduced,".
The top court said that there is no doubt that there are certain colleges which have produced doctors of international fame and they are an asset to not only for India but for the entire humanity. The Court also took note of the prevailing situation of corruption in the field of education and commercialisation of education
Relying on several apex court judgements including a constitution bench verdict of 2002 in TMA Pai Foundation, the bench said,
"Thus, we are of the opinion that rights under Articles 19(1)(g) and 30 read with Articles 25, 26 and 29(1) of the Constitution of India do not come in the way of securing transparency and recognition of merits in the matter of admissions...It is open to imposing reasonable restrictions in the national and public interest...Uniform entrance test qualifies the test of proportionality and is reasonable. The same is intended to check several maladies which crept into medical education, to prevent capitation fee by admitting students which are lower in merit and to prevent exploitation, profiteering, and commercialisation of education".
Article 30 does not come in the way of the State stepping in to secure transparency and recognition of merit in the matter of admissions. Regulatory measures for ensuring educational standards can be framed. In the case of professional education, transparency and merit have to be unavoidably taken care of and cannot be compromised, observed the apex court.
Unless the admission procedure and fixation of fees are regulated and controlled at the initial stage, the evil of unfair practice of granting admission on available seats guided by the paying capacity of the candidates would be impossible to curb, stating this, the bench noted:
" the menace of the fee prevailing in the various educational professional institutions and in the context of Articles 19(1)(g), 19(6), 30, 41 and 47, and considering the Schedule VII, Entry 25 of List III and Entry 6366 of List I, this Court held that concerning "professional unaided minority" and "nonminority institutions", common entrance test has to be conducted by the State and regulation of the fee structure by it is permissible. The Court took note of the largescale malpractices, exploitation of students, profiteering, and commercialisation and entrance examination held by various institutions failing the triple test of having fair, transparent, and nonexploitative process."
It said minority institutions are equally bound to comply with conditions imposed under the relevant Acts and Regulations to enjoy affiliation and recognition.
Pinpointing that even AIIMS, the most reputed institute of the country, is conducting NEET, the bench stated:
The notifications, which are questioned in the matters and the amendment made to Section 10D as introduced in the Act of 1956 and regulations as amended by the MCI and similar provisions inserted in the Dentists Act & Regulations, cannot be said to be taking away the rights of the unaided minority institutions or private institutions of making admission in any manner as it is permissible to provide regulatory mechanism at the national level and the entrance test applies even to All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) – the most reputed Institute of India.
Even, the NEET has been made applicable to such premier institution like All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and so many others. The decision has been taken considering the overall national scenario, there cannot be any exemption, otherwise, there would be no end to such claims and multiple examinations. It would not be possible to eradicate evils. We cannot restore overall derogatory situation which prevailed before introduction of NEET.
Stating that there are several loopholes, which are to be plugged in the admission procedure and Unscrupulous practices are being adopted by private colleges of not admitting students sponsored by centralised counselling committee, the bench held that the minority and private institutions have to admit students based on merit in the permissible category, based on NEET as per the procedure prescribed under the Act and Regulations
This Court observed that the activity of education is neither trade nor profession, i.e., commercialisation and profiteering cannot be permitted. It is open to imposing reasonable restrictions in the interest of the general public. The education cannot be allowed to be a purely economic activity; it is a welfare activity aimed at achieving more egalitarian and prosperous society to bring out social transformation and upliftment of the nation.
"To weed out evils from the system, which were eating away fairness in admission process, defeating merit and aspiration of the common incumbent with no means, the State has the right to frame regulatory regime for aided/ unaided minority/private institutions as mandated by Directives Principles, Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution."Attached below is the judgment in detail: