The Madras High Court on Tuesday, July 13, dismissed the plea filed by BJP’s K Nagarajan against the panel constituted by the Tamil Nadu government on the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET). The ruling DMK had last month constituted the panel, headed by retired high court judge Justice AK Rajan, to analyse if NEET had an adverse impact on students from backward classes and if so, the committee was asked to recommend remedial measures to the government. The petition by BJP state general secretary K Nagarajan had sought to quash the state government order constituting the panel.
The HC on Tuesday said that the appointment of the panel is not an act of defiance to any order passed by the Supreme Court and said that it does not pose a challenge to the rights of the Union government to fix a standard of higher education.
“Setting up of the commission does not amount to subverting any process of (medical) admission, far less an act of defiance to any order passed by Supreme Court or even the remotest challenge to the authority of the Union,” the bench said, reported Bar and Bench.
“The issuance of the notification does not exceed the authority of the state government. As long as the State govt does not do anything to upset the procedure for admission to medical institutions as established by law, it does not call for any interference,” the bench added.
ORDER: Other point of view equally possible that way forward for students of the State to compete in #NEET may be to raise standard of school education. It is a question of policy whether bar has to be raised at school level or bar has to be lowered at medical admission level— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) July 13, 2021
Tamil Nadu has been opposed to NEET as it puts students who are not English-medium educated at a disadvantage when it comes to clearing the exam. State board students from Tamil Nadu find NEET to be particularly challenging as they have to face questions in English or Hindi. Further, NEET paper follows a CBSE syllabus which further discriminates state board medical aspirants because the syllabi of Tamil Nadu State education board and CBSE is quite different.
The petition had sought to quash an order dated June 10 this year of the Secretary, Health and Family Welfare (MCA-1) department, on the constitution of the commission, saying it was 'unconstitutional, illegal, unfair' and without legal justification. Among other things, the petitioner contended that the order passed by the state government is against the procedure encapsulated under the National Medical Commission Act, 2019. When the Supreme Court had directed it to implement NEET by its order dated August 22, 2017, it was not open to the state government to suggest an alternative, the petition said. The purpose of forming the committee itself was illegal since it virtually amounted to seeking the opinion of the public about the judgment of the Supreme Court, the petitioner contended.
The Union government, in a reply affidavit to the petition, had last week told the Madras High Court that the panel has no jurisdiction to go into the issue. The Union government said a conjoint reading of the relevant provisions of the Constitution makes it abundantly clear the executive power of the State to set up such a commission is restricted to subjects within its legislative competence.
Announcing the said panel earlier this month, Chief Minister M K Stalin had said it would analyse if NEET had an adverse impact on students from backward classes and if it was so, the committee would recommend remedial measures to the government.
NEET is opposed to by almost all political parties in the state, including BJP's ally AIADMK, even as a few medical aspirants have allegedly ended their lives over the matter, either due to poor score in the test, as in the case of S Anitha of Ariyalur, or over fears about the qualifying exam.
(With PTI inputs)