New Delhi: Medical and dental college aspirants got some relief on Tuesday after the government decided that seats in state government medical colleges and government seats in private medical colleges would not be alloted on the basis of the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) this year.
From next year (2017), NEET will apply universally.
On Wednesday, President Pranab Mukherjee signed an ordinance to the effect, bypassing a Supreme Court ruling last month that admission to medical colleges would be solely on the basis of NEET. Earlier this month, the apex court refused to exempt state government medical colleges from NEET this year.
That prompted protests by students and state governments.
Five states have already conducted their medical entrance tests: Gujarat, Karnataka, Tripura, Maharashtra and Kerala. “They are not likely to implement NEET this year,” said a health ministry official who asked not to be identified.
Tamil Nadu and Puducherry admit students to medical and dental colleges on the basis of marks obtained in Class XII. The two states will follow the same process this year and shift to NEET next year.
Seven states have already communicated that they will accept the NEET score from this year itself: Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Rajasthan, Chandigarh and Odisha. “The rest of the states will take a call,” said the official.
The ordinance will ensure that students who have already appeared for tests conducted by the states will not have to re-appear for NEET.
A NEET for post-graduate courses will take place in December as scheduled. However, in the case of private colleges, some students who have appeared for tests conducted by the states may have to reappear for NEET.
Some of the seats in private colleges are so-called state government seats and the admission is usually on the basis of tests conducted by the state government or (in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry) Class XII marks. This will be the practice this year as well.
Other seats in these private colleges are alloted transparently (which means on the basis of some test), under the management quota or the non-resident Indian quota. The tuition fee for these seats is much higher. These seats will be filled on the basis of NEET instead of any other test.
While students prefer to get into private medical and dental colleges on state government seats, some of those that don’t hope to get in through the management quota. Those students will have to appear for NEET this year.
There are 57,000 medical college seats in India, 28,000 government seats and 29,000 private. Of the government seats, the central government has around 4,000 seats. Of the 29,000 seats in private colleges, states have around 12-15%.
This means NEET will be applicable in many cases this year itself.
“In the current year, NEET will be applicable to at least 28,000 or nearly 50% of the total medical and dental seats in the country,” said the official. He said that out of 24,000 seats of state governments, a few thousand will fall within NEET (if the states have accepted the test).
“Our estimate is that 2/3rd of the seats will be catered (to) by NEET from this year itself.”
He added that the ministry will conduct NEET in several regional languages from next year. “We are planning to hold the entrance (test) in all official languages of India.”
Talking about legal implications of the government’s decision, health minister J.P. Nadda said that the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016 and the Dentists (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016 are being promulgated to amend the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, and Dentists Act, 1948, respectively.
“This will provide for a uniform entrance examination for Under Graduate (UG) and Post Graduate admissions with a proviso that for UG admission for the year 2016-17 only, the State Govt. seats (both in Govt. and Private Medical Colleges) shall be exempt from the purview of NEET regulations if the State Government so opts,” a health ministry statement said.
Nadda said states had asked for the exemption: some had conducted the examinations; others were worried about the fact that many of their students took state examinations in regional languages; and still others were worried about their students moving to the entirely different syllabus that NEET follows.
Nadda said the ordinance gives statutory backing to NEET. It is likely that this ordinance will be presented before the next session of Parliament for its approval.
On the issue of the ordinance granting an exemption to state governments despite the apex court declining to do so, experts are of the opinion that as long as it addresses the concerns of students, the question of propriety doesn’t arise.
“For this limited purpose, it’s a measure that takes care of the problems of several thousand students because of interim orders of the Supreme Court. Lots of students were badly affected. They were preparing a certain way and then suddenly the interim orders (from the Supreme Court) changed things. This (passing an ordinance) is something a government is entitled to do. It’s for a limited purpose and an emergent situation—it fulfils the two conditions for bringing an ordinance,” said Supreme Court lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan.
Elizabeth Roche contributed to this story.