New Delhi, April 29: The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) is mandatory for admission to medical colleges run by religious and linguistic minority communities, the Supreme Court held on Wednesday.
A three-judge Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra held that admissions solely through NEET for graduate and postgraduate medical/dental courses does not violate any fundamental and religious rights of minorities. NEET would apply for both aided and unaided medical colleges administered by minorities, The Hindu reported.
The court dismissed arguments made by the managements of several minority-run medical institutions, including the Christian Medical College Vellore Association, that bringing them uniformly under the ambit of NEET would be a violation of their fundamental right to “occupation, trade and business”.
The colleges had argued that imposing NEET would violate their fundamental rights of religious freedom, to manage their religious affairs, to administer their institutions. They said the State was reneging its obligation to act in the best interest of minorities.
‘Realm of charity’
But Justice Mishra, who wrote the 108-page judgment, said it was time the field of education returned to the “realm of charity”, a character it had lost over the years. NEET was brought in to weed out malpractices in the field.
The court held that rights of trade, business and occupation or religious rights “do not come in the way of securing transparency and recognition of merits in the matter of admissions”.
Regulating academics and imposing reasonable restrictions to ensure educational standards was in national and public interest, Justice Mishra wrote.
The right to freedom of trade or business is not absolute. It is subject to “reasonable restriction in the interest of the students’ community to promote merit, recognition of excellence, and to curb the malpractices. A uniform entrance test qualifies the test of proportionality and is reasonable”.
‘To check several maladies’
“NEET is intended to check several maladies which crept into medical education, to prevent capitation fee by admitting students which are lower in merit and to prevent exploitation, profiteering, and commercialisation of education. The institution has to be a capable vehicle of education,” Justice Mishra observed for the Bench, also comprising Justices Vineet Saran and M.R. Shah.
The court said minority institutions were equally bound to comply with the conditions imposed under the law. The regulations, including admission through NEET, were neither divisive or disintegrative. They were necessary.The judgment was based on a challenge by the colleges to several notifications issued by the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Dental Council of India (DCI) under Sections 10D of the Indian Medical Council Act of 1956 and the Dentists Act of 1948 for uniform entrance examinations.
“Professional educational institutions constitute a class by themselves. Specific measures to make the administration of such institutions transparent can be imposed. The rights available under Article 30 [right of minorities to administer their institutions] are not violated by provisions carved out in Section 10D of the MCI Act and the Dentists Act and Regulations framed by MCI/DCI,” the court held.
Uniform entrance exams would ensure improvement in future public health by encouraging merit in furtherance of the Directive Principles enshrined in the Constitution.