New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the decks for holding a single common entrance for admission to all medical and dental courses in the country.
The ruling by a bench comprising justices Anil R. Dave, Shiva Kirti Singh and Adarsh Goel comes just two days before the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is scheduled to conduct the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT).
With this order, AIPMT will be christened as National Eligibility cum Entrance Exam (NEET) but with a national mandate.
The order would imply that all government colleges, deemed universities and private medical colleges would be covered under NEET and those examinations which have already taken place or slated to be conducted separately stand nullified.
“We are running against time,” the bench said while reviving government’s 21 December 2010 notification for holding single common entrance test or NEET with a clarification that any challenge on the issue would directly come before the Supreme Court and no High Court can interfere in it.
Additional solicitor general Pinky Anand, appearing for CBSE, told the court that the exam would be held in two phases—on 1 May for those who have applied for the AIPMT and on 24 July for fresh candidates. Which means, CBSE will float rules and dates for a fresh test to be held on 24 July to galvanize any inconvenience to candidates.
The combined results will be declared by 17 August. Around 650,000 students are likely to appear in the national entrance.
On 11 April, the apex court recalled its 2013 judgment that had declared NEET “illegal” and “unconstitutional” on the ground that it interfered with the right of private, minority and linguistic institutions to admit students.
Following the recall of the judgement, Sankalp Charitable Trust, a non-profit moved the top court on 26 April seeking clarity on holding a common national entrance.
The centre, CBSE and the Medical Council of India (MCI) assured the court that the test can be conducted this year.
The apex court’s ruling is intended to end uncertainty surrounding the admission test. Many states have, however, already announced their own entrance examinations for admission. The court briefly heard opposition to NEET by three states—Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh—before rejecting their pleas.
Andhra Pradesh is slated to conduct Engineering, Agriculture and Medical Common Entrance Test on 29 April. Tamil Nadu has been admitting students based on marks obtained in Class XII since 2007.
The court ruling got a mixed response from medical colleges. While private minority institutions such as the Christian Medical College, Vellore insisted that NEET cannot be imposed on them, the top court did not agree.
“We welcome this wholeheartedly. Why should students take 11-12 entrance exams? This will be a huge relief. But this is only half a step. There should also be a common exit exam so that all doctors are of same quality,” said Ravi Kant, vice-chancellor, King George’s Medical University, Lucknow.
Many students took to social networking sites to complain that the exam cannot be announced merely two days in advance.
“I have already given Bihar’s state entrance and now we are told that admissions would be done through NEET. If a national entrance is for student convenience, where is my convenience?” asked Shabab Anwar, who is preparing for medical entrances for the last two years.
A five-judge bench headed by justice Dave will, however, revisit the legality of NEET exam on 3 May and hear all states that have objected to the common entrance. Incidentally, Dave was also a part of the three-judge bench which scrapped NEET in 2013. He had delivered a dissenting opinion, upholding the government’s move to conduct a national entrance.
The government welcomed the court verdict. “We will enable MCI and CBSE to conduct the entrance exams in a manner and time that would not cause distress to students,” said J.P. Nadda, Union minister for health and family welfare.
Jyotsna Singh and Prashant K. Nanda contributed to the story.