Chronology of events that killed Anitha, a bright student who opposed NEET
The BJP and the AIADMK claim that it was the Congress and the DMK that brought in NEET in 2010. The opposition parties for their part have put the blame right back at BJP and AIADMK, claiming that it was the AIADMK which set aside the Tamil Nadu Assembly resolution that opposed NEET, and brought the exam into the state anyway.
So who’s right and who’s lying?
The truth is, NEET has its roots in the judgement of the Supreme Court on 22 June 1984, in the Dr Pradeep Jain and others vs Union of India case.
The Court directed that at least 30% of the open seats of MBBS and BDS courses should be made available for admission of students on an All India basis.
Following this judgement, the case has seen some interesting twists and turns for two decades now, but the most important change came in 2010, when the Medical Council of India issued a notification of December 21, amending the regulations for medical admissions, making NEET a single eligibility-cum-entrance examination across India for MBBS and BDS courses. It also gave powers to the Centre to lower the minimum mark of 50% for seats reserved on the basis of caste.
This is the reason why the BJP and AIADMK claim that it was the Congress and DMK which brought it NEET. But we must understand that MCI is just like the CAG and the Election Commission - in that it’s an independent Constitutional body. The best example is how, when CAG made humongous claims on 2G, the Central government could not do anything because CAG is a Constitutional body. The claim therefore that the Congress and DMK brought NEET in is busted.
Role of MCI and Judge Anil Dave
In the same year, MCI released its syllabus and model question bank for the exam. This was challenged by several organisations, institutions and the state governments of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in various courts across the country. The cases were eventually transferred to the Supreme Court. Close to 178 writ petitions were filed and heard in the matter.
On July 18, 2013, the Supreme Court, in a majority judgment, set aside NEET and suggested NEET was against the Constitution. This judgement was delivered 2-1 with Justice Anil Dave (more on him later) the lone judge supporting NEET. Another judge, namely Justice Altamas Kabir who delivered “NEET not required” part of the judgement, retired thereafter.
Role of SC
On October 23, 2013, a review petition challenging the judgement was filed by the MCI and the Supreme Court issued a notice. This case changed many hands between October 2013 and March 2016, as many judges either retired or recused themselves from the case.
During the same time, SC set up a new bench called the “Indian Constitutional bench” comprising five judges, and NEET case was assigned to this bench.
The biggest irony here is that the one judge who supported NEET - Justice Anil Dave - was the person heading the bench that would re-hear the case. How could a judge who supported NEET through his earlier verdict head the same bench that re-hears this case? This scenario clearly explains how constitutional bodies like MCI had their way even in the judiciary.
Out of the five judges, Justice Banumathi was from Tamil Nadu, and she is a Vanniyar.
On April 7, 2016, the Supreme Court considered submissions made by the advocates of the parties and reserved the judgement. On April 11, 2016 (Jayalalithaa was ruling TN and she was healthy), Justice Anil Dave pronounced the judgement in open court, holding that prima facie there were enough grounds to recall the 2013 judgement (the one that went against his point) and hear the case afresh. The SC recalled its own earlier order by none other than the judge (Anil Dave) who supported “NEET” in its earlier verdict.
Role of Sankalp Trust
Within a few hours, there was a petition filed in SC by an NGO “Sankalp Charitable trust,” to direct the conducting of NEET exam before April 28 - within 20 days of the judgement, begging the question, why such a hurry?. Justice Anil Dave then delivered another verdict confirming that NEET should be conducted on April 28.
That was election time in TN and the state was given an exemption for one year. The then Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, got an exemption from April 2016 to April 2017. However, Jayalalithaa was admitted to the hospital in September 2016, and O Panneerselvam (OPS) became the interim Chief Minister in November 2016. At this point, OPS gave his consent for NEET through his Education Minister, Mafoi Pandiarajan.
Even after that, the TN government was not public about this, rather they kept everything under wraps. They neither informed nor prepared the students for the impending exam. They could have said we are trying for exemption, but you prepare for the exam. That did not happen. Students were fed false promises.
Jaya passed away in December 2016 and everything changed in TN. DMK along with opposition parties intensified the agitation, asking NEET to be scrapped permanently, as the time was drawing closer for NEET. Repeated false promises were given by almost every Minister in TN and the central government. Most of the crucial time between February and April 2017 was lost by the power hungry AIADMK that split and fought among themselves while students were left in the lurch.
Central Ministers like Nirmala Seetharaman in fact went on record saying Centre has approved the notification submitted by TN for one year exemption, and it was just a matter of days. People like Anitha were happy on hearing the news.
But nothing happened. Only false promises.
NEET was forced on the students, and many who did not prepare failed or scored miserably.
So who is responsible for the death of Ariyalur Anitha?
1. Is it the Medical Council of India that acted with imperialistic attitude suggesting single common entrance disregarding diversity of this great nation?
2. Is it Justice Anil Dave who supported NEET in its original judgement?
3. Is it Supreme Court that dragged the case for three years between 2013 and 2016?
4. Is it the error on the part of the SC, which let the same judge who supported NEET head the bench that reheard the case in 2016?
5. Is it Sankalp Trust that filed a PIL in support of NEET?
6. Is it OPS (the then CM and current Deputy CM of TN) and Mafoi Pandiarajan who agreed to let NEET in after the death of Jayalalithaa?
7. Is it the TN government that did not prepare the students well for the exam even after signing up for NEET?
8. Is it the BJP government that threw the two Assembly resolutions of the TN Govt demanding abolition of NEET into the dustbin?
9. Is it the AIADMK factions (OPS and EPS) that did not set this (abolition of NEET) as a precondition for their support to NDA’s presidential candidate?
10. Or is it Vijayabaskar (current Health Minister of TN), Sengottayan (another Minister), BJP Ministers Pon Radhakrishnan and Nirmala Seetharaman who assured (false promises) almost every day that we will get exemption from NEET?
The result is that Anitha, a meritorious student, was driven to death by the above people and system. RIP.
The author is a member of the DMK, and the views expressed are his own.