‘Panel has been constituted in contravention of Supreme Court verdicts’
The Justice A.K. Rajan committee constituted by the Tamil Nadu government recently to study the impact of the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) on medical admissions, is “neither requisite nor valid,” the Centre has told the Madras High Court.
Enunciating its stand on a public interest litigation petition filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State secretary K. Nagarajan against the constitution of the committee, the Centre said the committee had been constituted in contravention of Supreme Court verdicts.
The response of the Union Health Ministry stated that the Supreme Court had approved NEET along with its various facets. Further, it was introduced across the country pursuant to an amendment made in 2016 to the Indian Medical Council Act of 1956.
Though the IMC Act was repealed and replaced with the National Medical Council Act of 2019, Section 61(2) of the latter had made it clear that the educational standards set under the 1956 legislation would continue to be in force.
Further, Section 14 of the NMC Act also states that admissions in undergraduate as well as postgraduate medical courses would be made only through NEET, said Chandan Kumar, Under Secretary, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
He went on to state that the Supreme Court had on April 29, 2020, in a case filed by the Christian Medical College, held that NEET was not opposed either to the social principles enshrined in the Constitution or to the social fabric of the country.
Despite such a categorical finding by the highest court of the land, the State government could not constitute a committee to study whether NEET was an equitable mode of selection of candidates eligible to pursue medical and dental courses, the Centre said.
It was also brought to the notice of the court that the terms of reference of the Justice A.K. Rajan committee read as if the State government had already come to a conclusion that NEET was against students from the socially and economically backward classes.
“The reference is not only a slight against the status and privilege of the Supreme Court but is also an exercise in futility as the law declared by the Supreme Court is binding on all functionaries by virtue of Article 241 of the Constitution,” the reply affidavit, served upon writ petitioner’s counsel V. Raghavachari, read.
Though the subject of ‘medical education’ was in the concurrent list of the Constitution, empowering both the Centre and the States to enact laws on the subject, the subject on determining minimum standards in institutions of higher education was in the Union list, the Ministry said.
Any decision taken by a State government under Entry 25 of the concurrent list would be subject to the Centre’s powers under Entry 66 of the Union list, it added.
"It is submitted that ‘medical education’ is regulated statutorily under the Central legislation i.e., the National Medical Commission Act of 2019. Accordingly, nothing inconsistent or contrary thereto can stand legally. Therefore, the State government cannot constitute a committee to study impact of NEET on medical admissions," the Centre’s reply affidavit read.
It went on to contend that the objective of the NMC Act itself was to put in place a system that improves access to medical education at affordable costs.
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