Medical Council of India

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National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET)

SC Bench Scraps Single-Window Entrance Test

Dhananjay Mahapatra TNN

The Times of India 2013/07/19

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed the single-window National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), dealing a body blow to uniform admission norms for MBBS, BDS and MD seats in all medical colleges and allowing private ones to frame their own admission norms and charge, in many cases, stiff capitation fees.

A three-judge bench, by a two to one majority, struck down the test as unconstitutional and ruled that the Medical Council of India (MCI) had no power to issue notifications in 2010 to regulate admissions to 271 medical colleges — 138 run by government and 133 under private management — offering 31,000 MBBS and BDS and 11,000 MD seats.

Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, on his last day before retirement, and Justice Vikramjit Sen held that the notification mandating NEET violated the rights of private medical colleges to carry on business guaranteed under Article 19 (1)(g) and the constitutional guarantee under Article 30 to the minority community to set up and manage educational institutions.

Justice A R Dave, in a strong dissent, stressed that there was no proper discussion on the draft majority verdict which appeared to have been rushed because the CJI was to retire soon. Four years ago, another SC bench had formulated and approved a single-window entrance test for all medical colleges.


In 2-1 verdict, three-judge SC bench says Medical Council of India and Dental Council of India have no statutory authority to conduct common entrance test, control admissions to all medical colleges MCI and DCI only have a mandate under law to prescribe standards to ensure excellence of medical education

Judgment of CJI Altamas Kabir and Justice Vikramjit Sen quashes NEET, which was envisioned, formulated and approved in 2010 by a 2-judge SC bench to remove corruption in medical seat allotment. Justice A R Dave strongly dissents

Admissions made on basis of NEET this year will not be affected; pvt medical colleges had already taken exemption from NEET this year

Dissent note reflects call SC took in 2010

New Delhi: Outgoing Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Vikramjit Sen on Thursday held that the MCI did not have power to force a single entrance test for controlling admissions to the medical colleges as it had been created only for the purpose of ensuring “excellence of medical education in India”. To this majority verdict came a strong dissent note from Justice A R Dave who was, in effect, reflecting what justices R V Raveendran (since retired) and A K Patnaik had expressed in 2010 while pitching for a common test.

In differing with the views of Justices Kabir and Sen, Dave appeared to rely on the old proverb, “justice hurried is justice buried”. In 2010, the bench of Justices Raveendran and Patnaik had strived to bring together the MCI and CBSE on the same page for conducting NEET. The bench was convinced that a single entrance test would save poor and meritorious students , by sparing them the physical and financial stress of having of travel from one city to another to appear in multiple entrance tests in the hope of bagging a MBBS, BDS or MD seat in a college.

The single-window test was welcomed by students and parents because of transparency and the respite it offered from the ordeal that the aspiring doctors had to endure until last year when they had to file multiple applications and shuttle between cities across the country to take entrance tests medical colleges would hold without coordination. It had also curbed the room for the promoters of several medical colleges to extort hefty capitation fees. “We also have no hesitation in holding that the MCI is not empowered under the MCI Act, 1956 to actually conduct the NEET,” the CJI said on Thursday, articulating the majority view.

Against the 173-page judgment by the CJI, Justice Dave penned a 35-page dissent and said, “As the Chief Justice is to retire within a few days, I have to be quick and therefore, also short. Prior to preparation of our draft judgments we had no discussion on the subject due to paucity of time and therefore, I have to express my different views…

“It cannot be said that introduction of the NEET would either violate any of the fundamental or legal rights of the petitioners or even adversely affect the medical profession. In my opinion, introduction of the NEET would ensure more transparency and less hardship to the students eager to join the medical profession.”


SC’s NEET logic contrary to constitution bench rulings

Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN

The Times of India 2013/07/22

The Supreme Court quashed the single-window admission system for all medical colleges by faulting the Medical Council of India-prescribed National Eligibility cum-Entrance Examination (NEET) on three grounds.

The majority judgment, authored by former CJI Altamas Kabir and agreed to by Justice Vikramjit Sen, held that NEET violated Articles 19(1)(g), 25, 26 and 30 of the Constitution, which guarantees a citizen freedom to practice any profession and gives freedom to religious and linguistic minority groups to manage their religious affairs as well as educational institutions.

The bench said neither the Medical Council Act, 1956 nor the regulations framed there under empowered the MCI to formulate and enforce a singlewindow admission process for medical colleges. The court also said NEET could not ensure a level playing field given the disparity in educational standards in different parts of the country.

Unnikrishnan judgment [1993]

Since the Unnikrishnan judgment [1993 (1) SCC 645], the Supreme Court has been peppered with petitions by private medical colleges whose counsel look for interim orders just before admission time every year either for grant of permission from MCI to admit students or to step around the rules.

The issues dealt by Justices Kabir and Sen were touched upon by larger benches which decided important questions of law.

In the Unnikrishnan case, a constitution bench had said education could never be considered trade or commerce under Article 19(1)(g). “We are certainly of the opinion that such activity can neither be a trade or business nor can it be a profession within the meaning of Article 19 (1)(g). Trade or business normally connotes an activity carried on with a profit motive. Education has never been commerce in this country,” it had said.

T M A Pai [2002]

A decade later, a 11-judge bench in T M A Pai [2002 (8) SCC 481] dealt with the subject of ‘capitation fee’ and whether imparting education could be a trade or business.

It had said, “We, however, wish to emphasize one point, and that is that in as much as the occupation of education is, in a sense, regarded as charitable, the government can provide regulations that will ensure excellence in education, while forbidding the charging of capitation fee and profiteering by the institution. Since the object of setting up an educational institution is by definition ‘charitable’, it is clear that an educational institution cannot charge such a fee as is not required for the purpose of fulfilling that object.”

It also had hinted about regulating admissions to private colleges. “Excellence in professional education would require that greater emphasis be laid on the merit of a student seeking admission. Appropriate regulations for this purpose may be made keeping in view the other observations made in this judgment in the context of admissions to unaided institutions,” it said.

Inamdar case [2005]

In the Inamdar case [2005 (6) SCC 637], a seven-judge bench had said a common entrance test (CET) for admissions to medical colleges, including minority institutions, would be ideal and should be conducted by a credible agency, preferably the state machinery. It had also said that a test of this nature, akin to the quashed NEET, would not violate Article 19(1) (g) or the religious rights conferred in the fundamental rights chapter of the Constitution.

“CET is necessary in the interest of achieving the said objectives and also for saving the student community from harassment and exploitation. Holding of such common entrance test followed by centralized counseling or, in other words, single window system regulating admissions does not cause any dent in the right of minority unaided educational institutions to admit students of their choice. Such choice can be exercised from out of list of successful candidates prepared at the CET without altering the order of merit inter se of the students so chosen,” it had said, articulating a vision for transparency sans profiteering in medical education.

It had said that despite repeated rulings of the apex court against capitation fee, private colleges were indulging in it with impunity and felt that CET could curb this evil.

“If capitation fee and profiteering is to be checked, the method of admission has to be regulated so that the admissions are based on merit and transparency and the students are not exploited. It is permissible to regulate admission and fee structure for achieving the purpose just stated,” it had said.

If that is the position of law crystallized by the seven-judge bench, then how could Justices Kabir and Sen ask, “But where does it take us as far as those cases concerned which derive their right and status under Articles 19(1)(g), 25, 26, 29(1) and 30 of Constitution? Can rights guaranteed to individuals and also religious and linguistic minorities under the said provisions of the Constitution be interfered with by legislation and that too by way of delegated legislation?”

Dr Preeti Srivastava case [1999]

The majority judgment’s view that MCI had no jurisdiction to devise and enforce NEET also stands on doubtful legal grounds as a five-judge constitution bench in Dr Preeti Srivastava case [1999 (7) SCC 120] had clearly held that regulations framed by the council were binding on states.

Can it be said that MCI, set up to ensure excellence in medical education, is barred from infusing transparency and merit into the process for intake of students? Lastly, the majority judgment in the NEET case said, “In a single-window competition, the disparity in educational standards in different parts of the country cannot ensure a level playing field.”

See also

Medical Council of India

Medical education: India

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