In a significant move, Union Health Minister J P Nadda has approved the Medical Council of India’s recommendation for an amendment to the Indian Medical Council (IMC) Act that will empower it to hold a nationwide common medical entrance test.
The health ministry has prepared a draft cabinet note to be circulated among the ministries.
The proposed amendment will pave the way for a one-country, one-medical entrance plan, for both undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses in all colleges, including private colleges and deemed universities.
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The MCI has told the government that it could either notify an existing examination, like the All India Pre Medical Test (AIPMT), as the common test or notify a new one.
The IMC Act governs the functioning of the MCI, which is the medical education regulator. Under the current Act, its role is limited to finalising the medical curriculum, while the states and individual colleges can devise their own admission procedures.
But in October last year, the MCI general body passed a proposal to amend the Act in order to empower it to conduct a common entrance test.
An earlier attempt to hold a common entrance test did not pass muster with the Supreme Court as it was undertaken by just notifying a change in the rules, without actually amending the Act.
The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) (PG) was held in November-December 2012 and NEET (UG) in May 2013. About 80 petitions were filed by minority institutes, private colleges and some state governments, which went to the Supreme Court.
Quashing NEET in July 2013, a bench of then Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justices Vikramjit Sen and Anil Dave ruled: “The role assigned to the MCI under Sections 10A and 19A (1) of the 1956 Act vindicates such a conclusion. As an offshoot, we have no hesitation in holding that the Medical Council of India is not empowered to actually conduct the NEET.”
The MCI general body has now recommended to the government that it should be empowered to prescribe such a test — whether it is conducted by the National Board of Examinations, like in the case of NEET, or some other body is a call that can be taken later.
Students seeking admission to medical colleges — at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels — often need to criss-cross the country, appearing for numerous entrance tests. Sometimes, they allegedly have to pay huge sums as capitation fee. A common entrance test has been a long-standing demand of students, but has been opposed by private and minority institutes as well as some state governments.
The NEET plan too faced opposition right from the start. The original plan was to implement it for the 2012-2013 session but it had to be delayed because of opposition from states. Giving in to their demands, the ministry agreed to conduct the test in six regional languages — Tamil, Marathi, Assamese, Bangla, Telugu and Gujarati — but private institutes still objected.
This time too, even as the ministry is in the process of seeking opinions from other ministries, sources said Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has already written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi opposing any such move.