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Supreme Court declines plea on online NEET

It has also refused to set up overseas centres for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test on September 13, saying interested foreign students must visit India for competing
The bench directed solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the NTA which conducts the exam, to facilitate all arrangements to allow foreign students to fly in via the Vande Bharat scheme to write NEET.
The bench directed solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the NTA which conducts the exam, to facilitate all arrangements to allow foreign students to fly in via the Vande Bharat scheme to write NEET.
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Our Legal Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 25.08.20, 01:09 AM

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to direct online exam or set up overseas centres for the NEET (National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test) on September 13, saying interested foreign students must visit India for competing.

The court passed the directions while dealing with an appeal filed by foreign aspirants,  who through their advocate Harris Beran, had pleaded that it would be impossible for them to visit India amid the pandemic as there are no proper international flights.

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But the bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and S. Ravindra Bhat declined the plea as it refused to interfere with the Kerala High Court order which had refused to direct the NTA to conduct online exams or set up centres abroad for interested overseas students.

However, it directed solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the National Testing Agency which conducts the exam, to facilitate all arrangements to allow foreign students to fly in via the Vande Bharat scheme to write NEET.

The bench said the foreign students must also observe the mandatory 14-day quarantine to protect “public health” though the petitioner was free to approach the respective state authorities to seek necessary relaxation of the norms.

“The petitioner requested for relaxation of 14 days quarantine. We are afraid such a direction cannot be given as it would endanger public health,” the bench said while allowing the petitioner to approach the state authorities to ask for relaxation of quarantine requirements.

“…that (quarantine) it is a matter of public health too. You can argue for your client…but, we need to take care of public health too. There is enough time, it’s (exam) on 13th (of September). Ask them to come now, so that 14 days quarantine can be over,” Justice Rao, heading the bench, said.

Mehta said quarantine is a prerogative of the state governments on which the Centre can’t say anything.

“I have no problem as such. So far as Vande Bharat flights are concerned, they do take care of certain categories,” Mehta said, while promising to facilitate interested students to avail of the flights for visiting India to write the exam.

The testing agency had earlier told the Supreme Court that it could not set up overseas centres or conduct the NEET through online mode in view of the Covid-19 crisis.

The NTA had filed an affidavit in this regard pursuant to the apex court’s July 29 notice to the Centre, Medical Council of India and the testing agency on the plea by around 4,000 students from Singapore, the Gulf and West Asian countries seeking allocation of overseas centres for conduct of the NEET or its postponement until the pandemic blows over.

Kerala High Court had earlier dismissed the plea of the overseas students, aggrieved by which they had moved the present special leave petition in the apex court.

On August 17, the apex court had dismissed another petition seeking postponement of the NEET saying the pandemic cannot be a reason to jeopardise the career of lakhs of students this year.



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