SC has dismissed the idea of a unified medical entrance test. But a fair standard must be ensured
The Supreme Court has shot down the common medical examination that was meant to determine entry into all medical and dental colleges at the graduate and postgraduate levels. Much was riding on this decision,since the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) had been bitterly opposed by private universities and some states. It was,however,an idea that made ample sense,as a way to cut through the thicket of examinations that students have to deal with,across states. Taking 10 to 15 examinations presents obvious logistical and financial challenges,and often forces hard choices on students. A single measure to evaluate all those who aspire to study medicine or dentistry creates an undisputable standard,allows for easier external vetting,especially if these students go abroad later. It makes possible meaningful comparisons between various student populations in India. The NEET had been proposed as a way to end the arbitrary admissions policy of many medical colleges,where seats often depend on high capitation fee.
The two judges on the three-member bench headed by the outgoing chief justice,Altamas Kabir,who struck down the exam,said that the Medical Council of India and Dental Council of India,as regulators,do not have the legal authority to control all admissions or to override the rights of private and minority institutions. They held that this would contradict constitutional principles like the right to practise any profession,and the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes. It was also argued that a single test would not accommodate the educational disparities in India though it it unclear how several tests will,given that students across the country compete in all of these exams for a limited number of seats. In his dissenting judgment,Justice Anil R. Dave said the test was legal,practical and the need of the society.
Whether or not the MCI and DCI are the appropriate test-setters,there must be a middle way between trampling over Articles 19(1)(g),25,26(a),29(1) and 30(1),and ensuring that all students are subject to a single,fair standard for admission to medical college. As the Centre considers its options for review of the judgment,it must make that case better.