No, NEET 2020 cannot be held online or overseas: NTA tells Supreme Court
New Delhi: Filing a counter-affidavit in the Supreme Court, the National Testing Authority, the exam conducting body for NEET has clearly stated that its not possible for it to conduct NEET 2020 online, nor be able to arrange centres for it overseas.
The response comes after the apex court issued a notice to the NTA as well as the Medical Council of India (MCI) to respond in a plea, filed by parents of nearly 4,000 NEET (undergraduate) overseas candidates, who sought centres at Gulf countries or to alternatively postpone the examination until the COVID-19 pandemic normalises.
Medical Dialogues team had earlier reported that the same issue was placed before the Kerala High court, where the National Testing Agency (NTA) and MCI informed the Kerala High Court that arranging examination centres for National eligibility cum entrance test (NEET) in abroad is not practical since it is not feasible to conduct NEET online in a single shift for all candidates. The authorities also told the court that allotting exam centres for this upcoming MBBS entrance test, is not possible as it takes meticulous planning and the exam is about to be held next month; which evidently gives them not enough time.
Based on the submissions, the Kerala HC dismissed the appeal of the students, following which the students and parents approached the Supreme Court. The court in return asked the government and the council to respond on the matter.
Now, responding to the plea the NTA stated that it has been mandated by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to conduct the National- Eligibility-Entrance Test [NEET (UG)] across the country, as a uniform entrance examination, for admission to all medical courses in all Medical Institutions, as per the norms/ regulations of the Medical Council of India (MCI).
The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) is a uniform entrance examaintion. This examination is conducted through Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) in paper book format given to all candidates. This uniformity has to be maintained for all candidates. According to the BoG, MCI is of the view that this examination should not be conducted in online mode by National Testing Agency (NTA) for candidates abroad."
The NTA in its submission to the court further stated
The answering respondent submits that the manner as to how examinations have to be conducted is a policy decision and, is, purely within the domain of the examining body viz., MCI and whether centres for conducting such examination should be provided in foreign countries, is in the province of MCI, to decide. MCI has taken its decision and, there is nothing on record which shows that the said decision of MCI is arbitrary or illegal particularly in the light of fact NEET (UG) is a uniform entrance examination and, to maintain uniformity for all candates, it has to be conducted at the same time, on the same day, throughout India. It was for this reason that the said examination cannot be conducted in online mode. The answering respondent further submits that the examination cannot be conducted in abroad citites due to the fact, as already stated, NEET (UG) has to be conducted in single shift at the same time, on the same day to maintain uniformity and, further, the questions papers and other exam materials are to be transported from NTA headquarters to a large number of examination centres in various citites, which would require meticulous planning for safe and secured delivery of the same at the examination centres on time.
Further responding to the contention that JEE is also held online and hence NEET can also be held on the same pattern the NTA noted
JEE (Main) is conducted in online mode in various cities in India and outside India as per the scheme of things. However, the NEET (UG) is being conducted in paperback format ever since. Further,
the JEE (Main) is a joint entrance examination for admission to Undergraduate Engineering Programs at NITs, IIITs, IITs, other Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTIs). Whereas, NEET (UG) is being conducted as a uniform entrance examination for admission to all medical courses in all Medical Institutions across the country. No parity can be drawn between JEE (Main), which is for a non-medical course and NEET (UG) which is for a medical course. The number of seats in engineering colleges in comparison to number of seats in medical colleges within the country are much more. Thus medical seats attract stiffer competition compared to engineering seats. Unlike for JEE (Main), the question papers and other exam materials for NEET (UG) have to be transported from NTA Headquarter to the large number of examination centres in various cities, which would require meticulous planning for safe and secured delivery of the same at the examination centres on time. Whereas, such rigorous preparations are not required for JEE (Main), for which the Question Papers can be delivered to the Examination Centres half an hour before the examination in password protected online mode. Comparatively much more preparations are required to be made for the smooth conduct of the NEET (UG). Also as per the norms of MCI, NEET (UG) has to be conducted in single shift on a single day, in order to obtain the same level of difficulty in question paper for all candidates. It is respectfully submitted that around 15 lakhs candidates appear for NEET (UG ) every year and 15,97,426 candidates have registered for NEET (UG) 2020, whereas about 8 lakh candidates appear for JEE(Main). Since there are large number of candidates (more than 15 lacs), it is not feasible to conduct NEET (UG) 2020 in online mode in single shift for all candidates, in order to maintain the same difficulty level. Therefore, there is no discrimination between the candidates of NEET (UG) and JEE (Main) nor there is any violation of the fundamental rights of the candidates of NEET (UG) as claimed in the writ petition. JEE(Main) and NEET(UG) are two separate class of examinations. Therefore, NEET (UG) cannot be conducted in the same manner as JEE(Main). In the light of the foregoing, it is respectfully submitted that it is not possible to have examination centres abroad including in Gulf Countries, for NEET-UG 2020.