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The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2021 for admission in Undergraduate medical courses will be held on September 12(Sunday) after Supreme Court today rejected a plea by a group of students to postpone the exam. Supreme Court said that it does not want to interfere with the process and it will be "very unfair" to reschedule it.

A bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar said if students want to appear in multiple exams, then they need to prioritise and make a choice as there may never be a situation where everyone is satisfied with the date of exams.

The apex court said however that the petitioners will be at liberty to make a representation before the competent authorities on the issue and the same may be decided at the earliest in accordance with the law.

"The arguments which you (counsel for petitioners) are canvassing may not be relevant for 99 per cent candidates. For one per cent candidates, the entire system cannot be put on hold," the bench, also comprising justices Hrishikesh Roy and C T Ravikumar, told advocate Shoeb Alam who was appearing for the petitioners.

When Alam said that around 25,000 students will be appearing in either improvement or compartment examinations for class 12, the bench observed that only around one per cent candidates go for that.

Alam argued that medical entrance exam NEET-UG 2021 be deferred as many other examinations are scheduled around September 12.

"If you are to appear in multiple examinations, then you need to make choice," the bench said, adding, "You have to prioritise. You must also be conscious that any deferment is likely to clash with some other examination."

The bench said the respective boards will do their job and the court will not interfere with examinations in such a situation.

It said deferment of exams might affect the next course and whole thing will be prolonged.

"It will be very unfair to reschedule the examination. NEET is a very large examination. It is not state-wise, it is a nation-wide exam," the bench said.

Alam told the court that around 16 lakh candidates are likely to appear in the NEET exam.

"We should now really redefine our scope of judicial review. Where do we go and to what extent," the bench observed, adding it do not want scores of students to suffer in any manner due to deferment of examination for which they have “burnt midnight oil" and prepared.

"The relief claimed in this petition is to quash a public notice of July 13 issued by the competent authority scheduling NEET UG 2021 examination on September 12. For the reasons canvassed by counsel for the petitioners, we are not impressed nor willing to show any indulgence to the petitioners or to allow them to invoke the remedy under Article 32 of the Constitution," the bench said.

The apex court was hearing a petition seeking deferment of the examination on the ground that several other exams are scheduled during the period.

The NEET (UG) 2021 will be held on 12 September 2021 across the country following COVID-19 protocols. The NEET examination was earlier scheduled to be held on August 1.

According to an official release issued by the Ministry of Education, in order to ensure social distancing norms, the number of cities where the examination will be conducted has been increased from 155 to 198.

The number of examination centres will also be increased from 3,862 centres used in 2020, the Ministry said. To ensure adherence to COVID-19 protocols, the Ministry said face masks will be provided to all candidates at the centre.

"Staggered time slots during entry and exit, contactless registration, proper sanitisation, seating with social distancing etc. will also be ensured. In addition to the common places, all furniture and fixtures, and seats will be sanitised before and after the exams. The examination room/halls will have open windows and fans for proper air circulation," the ministry added.

In a first, the NEET-UG exam 2021 will be conducted in 13 languages with Punjabi and Malayam being the new additions, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had announced in July.

He had also said that a new exam centre for the NEET has been opened in Kuwait to facilitate the Indian student community in the Middle East.

*With inputs from agencies

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