SC To Examine Validity Of Upper Age Limit For Appearance In NEET
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine the validity of the imposition of an upper age limit for appearance in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET).
The vacation bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Ashok Bhushan issued notice on the challenge to the 2017 amendment to the MCI Regulations on Graduate Medical Education of 1997.
The Amendment Regulations notified on January 22, stipulate an upper age limit of 25 years for General Category candidates and of 30 years for students belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes as well as Physically Handicapped categories for admission to MBBS course.
The bench was hearing a string of SLPs arising out of the May 11 judgment of the Delhi High Court upholding the vires of the proviso to clause 4(1) of the Regulations, which states:
“4. Admission to Medical course-Eligibility Criteria:
No Candidate shall be allowed to be admitted to Medical Curriculum proper of first Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) Course until:
(1) He/she shall complete the age of 17 years on or before 31st December of the year of admission to the MBBS Course.
Provided further that in order to be eligible, the upper age limit for candidates appearing for National Eligibility Entrance Test and seeking admission to MBBS programme shall be 25 years as on the date of examination with a relaxation of 5 years for candidates belonging to SC/ST/OBC category and person entitled to reservation under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016...”
“It is restrictive in nature...the regulation is artificial and serves no real objective...,” urged senior counsel Amarendra Sharan on the petitioners’ side.
“The Regulation is bad as per the (MCI Oversight) Committee as well as the Central government...it has been recommended that the upper age limit be deleted as the country needs more doctors...,” he pressed.
It may be noted that the minutes of the meeting of the MCI Executive Committee dated March 16, 2017 read: “With regard to upper age limit & number of attempts, as per the letter dated 26 February 2017 of the Oversight Committee as well as letter dated 2nd March 2017 of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, it has been decided by the Ministry to delete the upper age limit as well the number of attempts at NEET UG, since the country needs Doctors and the limitation would be restrictive in nature. After due deliberations, the Executive Committee of the Council directed the office to place the amendments as approved by Central Govt. before the General Body...”
“That was a policy decision...these Regulations are in exercise of legislative power,” noted the bench.
“When candidates secure higher marks, it increases competition, resulting in better doctors...”, pressed the senior advocate, in view of the high court having observed that a candidate who is 17 or 18 years old would find it difficult to compete with older and more experienced candidates such as a compounder, ward boy or nurse.
Declining any interim relief as the results of NEET-2018 were due to be declared on the same day, the bench agreed to hear the matter on the legal point.
The petitions are scheduled for hearing in July.
Earlier in February, a bench of Justice SA Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao had required the writ petitioners before itself to withdraw and approach the high court.Read the Order Here