Alleging that the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admissions in medical courses in colleges across the nation is violative of the principle of Federalism, the Tamil Nadu government moved the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of the test.
The NEET is the sole entrance test for admissions in undergraduate medical courses such as MBBS and BDS and also for postgraduate courses in government and private medical colleges.
In a lawsuit, filed under Article 131 of the Constitution, the state government alleged that the principle of federalism, which was part of the basic structure of the Constitution, was being violated by examinations like NEET, as it took away the autonomy of states to make decisions regarding education.
‘Reasoning invalid for government seats’
The plea, filed through lawyer Amit Anand Tiwari, said the validity of NEET was upheld in 2020 by the apex court on the grounds that it was required to curb unfair practices, such as granting admission based on the paying capacity of candidates, charging capitation fee, large-scale malpractices, exploitation of students, profiteering, and commercialisation.
However, such grounds were not applicable in the case of admissions to government seats and the reasoning of the judgment is applicable only to private college seats, it said, adding the verdict upholding the NEET does not bind a state in so far as admissions to government seats are concerned.
The suit sought a decree “declaring that Sections 14 of the National Medical Commission Act, 2019, the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Act, 2020 and the National Commission of Homeopathy Act, 2020, Regulations 9 and 9A of the Post-Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 2000, Regulations I(2), I(5) and II of the BDS Course Regulations, 2007 respectively are violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, violate federalism and therefore void”.
Tamil Nadu anti-NEET bill
Tamil Nadu has been strongly opposing NEET, with most of the political parties — including the DMK and the AIADMK — firmly believing that the common entrance test discriminates against students coming from rural and underprivileged backgrounds.
Several students died by suicide over the last few years in the state due to fear of failing the NEET exam, which forced the Tamil Nadu assembly to pass the anti-NEET bill twice after the DMK government came to power.
The bill was first unanimously passed by the state Assembly in September 2021. However, Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi refused to give his assent to the bill and returned it to the state legislature for reconsideration on 1 February, 2022.
The same bill was passed for the second time by the Tamil Nadu Assembly on 8 February, 2022. The Governor forwarded the bill to the President on 5 May.
However, in July 2022, Minister of State (MoS) of Home Affairs Ajay Kumar Mishra, in a written response to a question raised by Madurai Lok Sabha member Su Venkatesan in Parliament, said: “No fixed time can be can be prescribed for the approval of ‘The Tamil Nadu Admission to Undergraduate Medical Courses Bill, 2021″.
(With inputs from PTI)