July 16, 2021
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‘NEET’ly done

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Good morning. To save herself from getting disqualified for violating the two-child rule, a Municipal Councilor from Maharashtra tried to disown her third child.

Next time your child doesn’t listen to you, you know what to do.


NEET committee not unconstitutional: Madras HC

Recently, the Madras High Court ruled that the formation of a committee to study the impact of National Eligibility cum Entrance Test – Undergraduate (NEET-UG) was not an ‘act of defiance’. Tamil Nadu government earlier formed a committee to study and submit a report on the impact of NEET-UG on medical admissions. However, BJP State Secretary Karu Nagarajan moved the Madras HC against the formation of the committee, citing that it was unconstitutional and arbitrary.


The NEET examination had always been in the eye of a storm in Tamil Nadu. The state board syllabus varied significantly with the CBSE syllabus that was used as a basis for NEET exams. TN students, especially those who could not afford to study in private coaching institutions, gave up on their dreams of becoming a doctor. Their failure/fear of failure had led to several deaths in the state. 

Until the death of former CM Jayalalitha, NEET did not find a place in the state’s UG admissions. However, following her death, the BJP alliance with a weakened AIADMK paved the way for the entry of NEET in the state.

The newly formed government by the DMK had proposed to abolish NEET in its election manifesto. Following this, in June 2021, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin formed a committee headed by retired judge AK Rajan to study the impact of NEET and suggest recommendations. The committee had eight other members. However, BJP State secretary Karu Nagarajan noted that it was unconstitutional to go against the Supreme Court order and inspect the examination. He filed a petition against the same at the Madras HC.

NEET committee unconstitutional: Nagarajan

Karu Nagarajan filed a writ petition that requested to quash the formation of the committee on the legal grounds that it was ‘unconstitutional, illegal, unfair and without legal justification’.

In his petition, he claimed that this move of the government was the first of many towards the process of destabilizing the medical admission procedure in the state. The forming of the committee was the first step towards undermining the NEET exam system. Additionally, he suggested that the committee intended to subvert the SC order.

The final orders of the apex court on NEET clearly outlined that the matter could no longer be questioned. Further, the Court had also clarified that the sole right to set standards for higher education vested with the Union Government. 

The National Medical Commission Act 2019 offered a medical education system that aided in improving access to affordable and quality education. Section 14 (1) of this Act stated that the uniform eligibility test for undergraduate medical education level should apply to all medical institutions governed under any law. 

Notably, he cited the recent pronouncement of the SC indicating that the State had no power regarding admission to MBBS and BDS courses. He referred to a letter by SC that clarified that ‘the State of Tamil Nadu shall not make any distinction or discrimination between the exams conducted by various boards and admission shall be effected as per the result of NEET exam’. The Union government had also stated in a reply affidavit that the committee had no jurisdiction to go into the issue. 

There were majorly three grounds on which the petition was filed. It noted that forming the committee was:

  • challenging the executive powers of the Union to fix a standard higher education;
  • affronting the SC by going against its order; and,
  • derogating the duty to aid the SC orders of conducting the uniform national exam.

NEET committee not an act of defiance: Madras HC

Responding to the petition, the bench consisting of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy declared that it was far from an act of defiance. The court observed that the setting up of the commission was neither subverting any admission process nor against the SC orders. It was also not challenging the executive authority/rights of the Union government to fix a standard of higher education.

In its explanation, the court stated that the findings of the commission might just reveal that taking up NEET would be a disadvantage for socially and economically backward students.  It found the arguments on the above-mentioned grounds were stretched beyond imagination. This was because the findings would have no direct effect of disobeying the order to conduct NEET exams. It also would not lead to any new alternative exams that could be decided only by the Union.

The court noted that the findings could be used to strengthen the State’s argument and persuade the Union to find an alternative to NEET or modify it to make it more inclusive for economically weaker sections. It also explained that hearing the opinion of the people was indeed the first step in attempting a mature policy that would either raise the bar of education at the school level or lower the medical college admission level. 

The court further elucidated that some citizens might feel setting up the commission was a waste of money that could have been directed to help the sufferers of the pandemic. However, the choices were vested with the elected government and asserted that it had the freedom to decide.

The court stated that it was within the authority of the state government to form the committee. It emphasised that as long as the state did not go against the medical admission procedure established by law, there was no need for interference. The bench also mentioned that it would have interfered only if the act in any manner offended the authority of SC.

Read the Madras HC judgment here.


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