The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled the NEET would be the only medical entrance exam in the country, saying minority educational institutions have “no absolute” right to operate outside government control and must comply with government regulations in the “national interest”.
The court emphasised that the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test had been introduced to end the problem of capitation fees and donations that had placed education beyond the reach of the common man.
It dismissed a batch of petitions moved by the Christian Medical College Vellore Association and other minority institutions seeking exemption from the NEET, conducted for admission to undergraduate and postgraduate medical and dental courses across the country.
The NEET is “a devise to standardise and compute equivalence between different kinds of qualifications,” the bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and M.R. Shah said.
“It does not interfere with the rights of the unaided minority institutions as it has been imposed in national interest considering the malpractices of granting illegal admission by virtually selling the seats in derogation of the rights of meritorious students.”
Till 2016, private and government medical colleges admitted students through state-level tests or their own entrance exams. Since 2016, all medical colleges barring a few government institutes such as AIIMS, Jipmer and PGI Chandigarh have been admitting students only through the NEET.
Last August, the government removed the exceptions by passing an act that made the NEET the sole medical entrance exam in the country.
The minority institutions too had been admitting students through the NEET but had moved high courts seeking exemption from it. All these cases were clubbed together and taken to the Supreme Court.
The apex court rejected the minority institutions’ argument that making the NEET mandatory violated their fundamental rights under Articles 19(1)(g), 30, 25, 26 and 29(1), which they said allowed them to operate without government control.
The court said these articles did not “come in the way of securing transparency and recognition of merits in the matter of admissions” and were “open to imposing reasonable restrictions in the national and public interest”.
It said the rights under Article 19(1)(g) — which relates to the freedom of profession, occupation, trade or business — are “not absolute”.
The court referred to a nine-judge ruling of 1974 that said the right of “religious and linguistic minorities to administer educational institutions of their choice is not an absolute right” and “is not free from regulation”.
It also cited an 11-judge ruling in 2002 that, while recognising that “private unaided colleges have the right to admit students of their choice, subject to an objective and rational procedure of selection and compliance with conditions”, said: “The element of profiteering is not as yet accepted in Indian conditions.”