The Education policy of the Central Government, both the present and the past, for the last three decades is Privatisation of education. Privatisation led to commercialisation. It is now a commodity sold for the best price.
It is unfortunate that 11 Judges of the Supreme Court in TMA Pai case declared that the citizens of this country have no fundamental right for higher education, while holding that the Constitution guarantees fundamental right for the private educational institutions to establish medical, engineering and other colleges. The Supreme Court also held therein that these private educational institutions have unfettered right in the matter of admission of students.
Armed with the said judgement, more particularly in the field of medical education, medical seats were sold in the private educational institutions at astronomical prices, without any regard to merit.
In the backdrop of the Apex Court judgement referred to above, TN Government did the best by bargaining with the non minority and minority private medical colleges to allot 65% and 50% of MBBS/BDS seats respectively to the Government. These seats and the seats in the Government Medical Colleges are known as ” Government Seats”. The rest of the seats are known as ” Management Seats”. The private medical colleges collected huge amount as capitation fee in admitting students to the management seats.
However, TN Government was not able to secure ” Government Seats” in private medical universities . These universities made fortunes in admitting students in various medical courses. A criminal case is registered against the chancellor, who is also the founder of a well known private university in Chennai at the instance of about 100 parents in connection with the huge amount of more than a crore collected from each of them assuring a seat in the medical course for the year 2016-17, and neither seats were given nor the collected amount returned .The founder of the university was arrested and he deposited Rs. 75 crores as a condition for the grant of bail . The same was reported widely by media. The case is still pending.
TN is the only state with 24 Government Medical Colleges, wherein only about Rs.20,000/-(Rupees twenty thousand only) collected per year from a student for the MBBS course. In other states, private players do major role in medical education.
Admission to MBBS course for the “Government Seats” is based on the marks obtained in the +2 public examinations and the same is done in the centralised counselling conducted by the TN Government. Thus, the admission to MBBS course in the Government Medical Colleges and “Government Seats ” in private medical colleges is purely on merit and is done in transparent manner.
All over India, the private medical institutions caused havoc in admitting students to various medical courses not on merit but by collecting huge amount as capitation fee. These institutions simply indulged in all sorts of criminal activities to make more profit in their business, resulting in CBI investigation being ordered by the Central Government .
The aforementioned evils are the product of the commercialisation of education due to the privatisation. Instead of abolishing the privatisation in Education, Regulatory measures are attempted.
In the said scenario, the Central Government endeavoured to regulate the admission in medical courses and issued a notification in December 2010 that admission to MBBS course in all the institutions shall be solely based on the marks obtained in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET). It was to ensure that admission to MBBS course shall be strictly made on merit and in transparent manner.
The notification was challenged in the Supreme Court by many private medical institutions. These institutions heavily relied on TMA Pai case. The Supreme Court quashed the notification on 18-7-2013.
A larger Bench of the Supreme Court, in a review petition filed by the Central Government, passed an order on 11-4-2016 recalling the judgement dated 18-7-2013 and also directing that the entire issue would be considered afresh.
In view of the order dated 11-4-2016, the Supreme Court on 28-4-2016 passed an order in Sankalp Charitable Trust case directing the Central Government to hold NEET to fill medical seats for the year 2016-17 in all the medical institutions all over India.
At the instance of the TN Government, the Central Government promulgated an Ordinance on 24-05-2016 granting exemption to NEET in filling up the Government Seats for the MBBS course for the year 2016-17 in TN.
Accordingly, in TN, while the admission to MBBS course in the Government Medical Colleges and the Government Seats in private medical colleges were filled based on the marks obtained in +2 examinations for the year 2016-17, the Management seats in private medical colleges and all the seats in the private medical universities were filled based on NEET.
Replacing the Ordinance, an amendment was made to The Indian Medical Council Act by inserting Section 10D by the parliament. Section 10D of the Indian Medical Council Act provides for admission to medical courses only through NEET. There is no exemption granted in the said section to NEET in making admission to medical courses in the Government Medical Colleges and the Government Seats in the private medical colleges, in TN.
In the said situation, the TN Legislative Assembly unanimously passed two Bills on 31-1-2017, one relates to the admission to MBBS/BDS course and the other relates to Post Graduation courses, but both are to make admission in the Government Medical Colleges and the ” Government Seats” in private medical colleges alone. One of the TN Laws provides for admission to MBBS/BDS course in the Government Medical Colleges and the ” Government Seats” in private medical colleges based solely on the marks obtained in +2 examinations.
Another TN Law provides for admission of 50% of the seats and 65% of the seats in PG Courses in the Minority and Non-minority Private Medical Colleges respectively and all the PG seats in the Government Colleges excluding the seats reserved for all India quota, based on the entrance examination conducted by the TN Government for the purpose of admission to PG courses. The salient feature of this Law is that 50% of the Government seats are to be filled from the doctors in Government Service. Otherwise, persons from other States could join the PG courses and would leave to their States after passing, to serve in their States at our cost.
Upto 2006, admission to MBBS/BDS course in the Government Medical Colleges and the Government seats in private medical colleges was done based on the +2 marks and the marks obtained in the entrance examination conducted by the TN Government. This led to the opening up of a large number of coaching centres, particularly in the cities, charging exorbitant fees. This created imbalance tilting in favour of affluent and rich. The entrance examination was also felt as an unwanted burden on the young school leaving students. TN Government appointed an expert committee to give a report on the matter. Based on the report of the expert committee, a Law was passed in TN Legislative Assembly in 2006 abolishing the entrance examination and making admission solely based on + 2 marks, in a centralised counselling. This Law was upheld by the Madras High Court and also by the Supreme Court.
It may also be useful to take note of a fact that a Constitution bench of 5 Judges of the Supreme Court upheld the Admission made to Medical courses based on the entrance examination conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Government in the judgement dated 02-05-2016 in Modern Dental College case. That is, a method other than NEET is legal, valid, and acceptable to the Supreme Court. The requirement is that admission shall be based on merit and in transparent manner.
Though the TN Legislature passed the two Bills long back on 31-1-2017 much before the commencement of the +2 exams in TN and sent for approval of the Centre, there is total deliberate inaction on the part of the Central Government. The undesirable silence on the part of the Central Government has caused severe strain on the lakhs of students, who are at present appearing for the +2 exams with aspirations to pursue medical education.
More importantly, while 98% of TN students study state syllabus, NEET is based on a different syllabus, namely CBSE syllabus. It is totally unjust to ask such students to face NEET for admission to MBBS course.
Already coaching centres have now come to prepare the students for NEET. Their business interests push them to support NEET. They use the enormous money power to achieve their goal. These Coaching centres even planted some articles in the leading news papers in support of NEET.
There are people who are for more centralised power disregarding the constitutional scheme providing for the federal system.
Doubts are raised by them as to the competence of the TN Legislative Assembly to enact laws excluding NEET for admission to medical courses in TN.
The doubts are misconceived, as the entry 25 of the List III (Concurrent List ) of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution empowers State Legislatures to make law on ” Medical Education “. Entry 25 reads as follows: “Education including technical education, Medical Education and universities subject to the provisions of entry 63, 64,65and 66 of List I.”
Those who are opposing the TN Law place reliance on entry 66 of List I(Union List) to contend that the TN shall not encroach upon the legislative field of the Parliament covered by Union List. Such a contention has no basis, if one makes a cursory perusal of entry 66, which reads as , ” Coordination and determination of standards in institutions for higher education or research and scientific and technical education.”
Harmonious construction of entry 25 and entry 66 would lead to the only conclusion that TN have power to legislate on “Admission” to medical courses, but cannot have power to set “Standards ” in medical education, which is the domain exclusively left to the Centre. Thus, the legislative measures of TN Government supported unanimously in the legislature are within their powers and they do not encroach upon the field meant for the Parliament. However, the Bills passed by the TN Legislature unanimously on 31-1-2017 should receive the assent of the President, who is acting on the advice of the Central Cabinet, to become a Law.
Some supporters of NEET argue that there are deficiencies in the State syllabus and in the exam pattern. They also presume that CBSE syllabus is far a superior one and the same would benefits the TN students.
For the sake of argument, if one agrees with the above view, the remedy is to make improvement in the State syllabus and the exam pattern and not to resort to NEET. CBSE syllabus is different from state syllabus. Prior to 2006, in TN, CBSE students were not able to compete with the State syllabus students in the entrance examination that was based on State syllabus to secure admission in MBBS/BDS course. Even thereafter, though there is equalisation of marks, CBSE students are not able to compete in securing admission to MBBS/BDS course based on the marks in +2 examinations. Thus, the argument is fallacious.
TN Government promptly sent the Bills passed by the assembly immediately for the approval of the Centre. But the Centre, that granted approval in the matter of Jallikattu, that also falls under concurrent list, due to the popular protest, have failed to act in the same way in granting approval to the TN Legislations seeking exemption to NEET to safeguard the interest of Students in TamilNadu.
Exemption to NEET and admission to MBBS/BDS course based on the marks obtained in the +2 examinations would only be beneficial to TN students.
-Justice D. Hariparanthaman (Retd Judge, Madras High Court)
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Thanks – State Platform for Common School System – Tamil Nadu