NEET: Centre signals rethink but states divided on Supreme Court order

The government signalled a rethink on NEET after meeting between Union health minister and his state counterparts


Union health minister J.P. Nadda. Photo: Mint
Union health minister J.P. Nadda. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: The last word on the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, or NEET—for students wishing to study medicine—has not been said yet. The government signalled a rethink on the issue after a meeting of state health ministers with Union health minister J.P. Nadda on Monday.

However, there is no consensus between the states, with some supporting a single national exam while others have reservations, especially with regard to language. The state health ministers apprised the central government of their concerns over an apex court ruling favouring NEET at the meeting.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that NEET would be the only test for admissions to medical courses in India, turning down an appeal by many states to be allowed to hold separate entrance exams.

Briefing reporters, Nadda said that views and concerns of the states will be collated and a future course of action decided.

“Most states are in favour of NEET in principle. However, some states have expressed there are some logistical issues that are impeding its implementation and, therefore, they have sought some more time,” said Nadda.

The minister said in some states the examination is either underway or set to start, making it too late to change the process.

The states also raised the issue of difference in syllabi of CBSE and state boards. This will result in bias against students from certain states if a common entrance examination is conducted.

The minister said the states also wanted NEET to be conducted in regional languages, in addition to Hindi and English.

Nadda said his ministry will take the concerns of all stakeholders to the Supreme Court.

In a series of tweets, Maharashtra’s medical education minister Vinod Tawde made his opposition to NEET very clear. “Urged central government for an ordinance to stop compulsory implementation of NEET this year which was positively heeded by the health minister,” read one such tweet by him. He hoped for cancellation of NEET “in favour of students of Maharashtra, helping to safeguard their future”.

But other state ministers came out in support of NEET. Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain said his government “strongly supports” the Supreme Court decision in this regard. Jain said the medical education industry is marked by capitation fees and widespread corruption and a common entrance will help bring down graft.

Earlier on Monday, finance minister Arun Jaitley hinted at executive action in the matter. He said the most important thing is to maintain fairness of the examination process and that executive decisions should be left to the executive, not the judiciary. “Political parties are also meeting in the evening to discuss this,” Jaitley said.

“A few cardinal principles have to be borne in mind. Fairness and integrity of the examination process should be maintained at all costs. The Supreme Court and our view is the same. At the same time, there should be a fair opportunity to all across the country,” Jaitley said. “The states are of the view that state boards are unequal. Also, their languages are dissimilar. Can those who are unequal and dissimilar be asked to compete on the same pedestal? I think this matter is now in the executive domain. The Supreme Court has given its judgement but I think we have to look into it.”

Asked about the tussle between the judiciary and the executive, Jaitley reiterated his views on the primacy of the legislature in certain matters.

“Independence of judiciary is extremely important but primacy of legislature has to be there in matters under its domain. Executive decisions have to be taken by the executive and not by judiciary,” he said. “There is recourse available in case a decision of the executive is not correct.”

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