New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the decks for holding of National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET), a single common entrance test for admission to MBBS and BDS courses, in two phases for the academic year 2016-17 in which around 6.5 lakh candidates are likely to appear.
The apex court approved the schedule put before it by the Centre, CBSE and the Medical Medical Council of India (MCI) for treating All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT) fixed for 1 May as NEET-1 and those who have not applied for AIPMT will be given opportunity to appear in NEET-II on 24 July and the combined result would be declared on 17 August so that the admission process can be completed by 30 September.
The order would imply that all government colleges, deemed universities and private medical colleges would be covered under the NEET and those examinations which have already taken place or slated to be conducted separately stands scrapped.
The order, ending all uncertainty, was pronounced after rejecting the opposition for holding NEET by states including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Association of Karnataka Medical Colleges besides minority institutions like CMC Vellore which had contended that NEET cannot be imposed on them.
The apex court order also revives the Government's 21 Decemeber, 2010 notification for holding single common entrance test through NEET with a clarification that any challenge on the issue would directly come before it and no High Court can interfere in it.
The court was of the view that since it has recalled its 11 April order, there was no hindrance in holding the single entrance test.
"In view of the submissions made on behalf of the respondents (Centre, CBSE, MCI), we record that NEET shall be held as stated by the respondents. We further clarify that notwithstanding any order passed by any Court earlier with regard to not holding NEET, this order shall operate. Therefore, no further order is required to be passed at this stage," a bench comprising Justices A R Dave, Shiva Kirti Singh and A K Goel said.
While rejecting the contention that it would not be proper to hold NEET in view of the 18 July, 2013 judgement which had scrapped the NEET, the bench said, "We do not agree with the first submission for the reason that the said judgement has already been recalled on 11 April, 2016 and therefore, the notifications dated 21 December, 2010 are in operation as on today."
"It may however be clarified that by this order hearing of the petitions which are pending before this Court will not be affected," the bench said.
Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand and senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the Centre and MCI respectively submitted that 6,67,637 candidates are appearing for the All India Pre-medical/Pre-dental Entrance Test, scheduled for 1 May from 1,040 centres in 52 cities, including abroad.
They submitted that by turning the 1 May entrance exam as NEET-1 would protect the interests of students who have already left their homes for the exams and have fully prepared for it.
Tamil Nadu, through senior advocate L Nageshwar Rao, strongly objected to NEET and said there is no culture of entrance exams in the state since 2007 in view of a prevailing legislation and the marks secured in class XII is considered as qualifying marks to make a level-playing field for the rural students.
Senior advocate K K Venugopal protested passing of the order on behalf of the Association of Karnataka Medical Colleges saying that there should not by any hurry and all stakeholders should be given a detailed hearing.
Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for CMC, Vellore said that the entrance exam by the minority institution has been for years and NEET should not come in its way.
The court also rejected the contention of senior advocates Rajeev Dhavan and P P Rao that 11 April order has not revived the NEET and it will not apply to all states which can hold separate entrance tests.