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NEET does not violate right of minorities: SC

  • Category
    Governance
  • Published
    5th May, 2020

In an important judgment, the Supreme Court held that the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, a single entrance exam for admission to medical and dental courses, would not violate the rights of minorities to run their own institutions.

Context

In an important judgment, the Supreme Court held that the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, a single entrance exam for admission to medical and dental courses, would not violate the rights of minorities to run their own institutions.

About

  • The National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET), formerly the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT), is the qualifying test for MBBS and BDS programmes in Indian medical and dental colleges.
  • It is conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).
  • The NEET exam is conducted online and in 11 languages — English, Hindi, Marathi, Odia, Tamil, Marathi, Urdu Bengali, Telugu, Kannada, and Assamese. The duration of the examination is three hours and a candidate needs to answer 180 questions.
  • The exam paper is divided into three sections — Physics, Chemistry and Biology (Botany and Zoology). 

What are minority educational institutions?

  • National Commission for Minority Educational Institution Act, 2004 has defined:
    • ‘minority’ as a community which is defined as according to the central government
    • ‘Minority institution’ as an educational institution which is administered and set up by the minority.

Constitutional rights accorded to minorities:

  • Article 30 of the constitution of India gives minorities the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
  • Under Art 30(1)(a),minority educational institutions enjoy right to education as a Fundamental Right. In case the property is taken over by state, due compensation to be provided to establish institutions elsewhere.
  • Article 30 (1)(b): The right to administer educational institutions of their choice.
  • Article 30 (2): No educational institution has a right to get government aid. But under Article 30(2), the state, in granting aid, cannot discriminate against minority institutions.

 Background:

  • The ruling came on a bunch of petitions originally filed in 2012 by the Christian Medical College, Vellore and others, challenging the notifications for NEET issued by the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Dental Council of India (DCI).
  • The Medical Council of India amended its regulation on March 10, 2017, providing for common counselling for admission to MBBS and post-graduate medicine courses on the basis of NEET.
  • These notifications were struck down in 2013 by a three-judge bench with 2:1 majority. The court had then held that MCI and DCI did not have the power to introduce NEET through these notifications.
  • However, hearing review petitions against the 2013 judgment, a five-judge bench in April 2016 opened the cases for fresh hearing and permitted NEET to be conducted in the meantime.
  • The main argument put forth by the petitioners was that NEET took away the right of the religious and linguistic minority institutions to administer their business, including the right to admit students from the minority community in terms of their own standards.

 The bone of contention:

  • The top court rejected a plea by minority-run Christian Medical College (Vellore) and others to conduct their own test for admission to under-graduate and post-graduate medical courses.
  • The unaided minority institutions contended that State has no power to compel them to admit students through a single centralised national examination such as NEET.
  • The unaided minority professional colleges have the fundamental rights to choose the method and manner in which to admit its students, subject to satisfying the triple test of having a fair, transparent and non-exploitative process.
  • They claimed the system of examination of some of the institutions is wider on an all-India basis, and they test general ability also, whereas, in NEET, evaluation is based on three subjects, namely, Physics, Biology and Chemistry.
  • They have an elaborate procedure of the assessment, and they do not admit students only based on their theoretical knowledge.  

Key-highlights of the judgement:

  • A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and MR Shah said the NEET has been prescribed by the legislature in the larger public interest.
  • The prescription of NEET is definitely in order to improve the medical education, co-related to the improvement of public health.
  • NEET intends to weed out evils from the system and various malpractices which decayed it.
  • The regulatory measures in no way interfere with the rights to administer the institution by the religious or linguistic minorities.
  • In its ruling, the bench said,

"We hold that there is no violation of the rights of the unaided/ aided minority to administer institutions under Articles 19(1) (g) (right to practice profession) and 30 (right minorities to establish and administer institution) read with Articles 25 (freedom to practice religion), 26 (freedom to manage religious affairs) and 29(1) (right to conserve distinct language and culture) of the Constitution by prescribing the uniform examination of NEET for admissions in the graduate and postgraduate professional courses of medical as well as dental science."

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court has taken the decision by considering the overall national scenario. In such case, there cannot be any exemption, otherwise, there would be no end to such claims and multiple examination.

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