27 Feb 2023 10:32 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed petitions filed by doctors who are aspirants of NEET-PG 2023-24 seeking to postpone the NEET-PG 2023 exam scheduled on March 3 by three months.A Bench comprising Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Dipankar Datta refused to entertain the petitions filed by candidates who complained that they are getting less time to prepare for exams as their internships...
The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed petitions filed by doctors who are aspirants of NEET-PG 2023-24 seeking to postpone the NEET-PG 2023 exam scheduled on March 3 by three months.
A Bench comprising Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Dipankar Datta refused to entertain the petitions filed by candidates who complained that they are getting less time to prepare for exams as their internships are ongoing. On last Friday, the bench had posted the matter for today, to get the response of the National Board of Examinaitons.
Arguments of petitioners
At the outset, Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that out of the over 2 lakh candidates who have registered for NEET-PG, nearly 1.3 lakh students are those who completed their graduation in previous years and who could not make it through PG in the previous terms.
The previous practice in the past is that the gap between the internship deadline and the exam is never more than two months. But for the present year, the gap is more than five months.
"Is there much advantage by rushing the exam in this manner?", the senior counsel asked.
Stand of NBE
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the NBE, submitted that the dates were announced 6 months ago. In the first window, nearly two lakh three thousand students applied. Only six thousand students applied after the internship deadline was extended. So, the demand is only by a minority.
ASG said that the NBE plans to commence counselling by July 15 and the students who are yet to complete internship will be dealt with provisionally.
From the figures presented by the bench, the Court noted that 5370 is the number of students who applied after the relaxation.
Details of the petitions
The petitioners, in the petitions filed through Advocate Charu Mathur and Dubey Law Associates, challenge the act of National Board of Examination (NBE) informing the candidates about the revised eligibility criteria as late as on 07.02.2023. The petitioners allege that the act is unjust, arbitrary and leaves no time to prepare for the examination, which is scheduled for 05.03.2023.
The petitioners allege that the National Board of Examination issued the notice without checking with all the State Medical Councils regarding one of the most important aspect of eligibility. It is argued that the eligibility criteria been modified twice by NBE, clearly reflects the oversight and mismanagement on its part of not consulting the state medical bodies in advance, thereby giving no time to the candidates to prepare.
"If NBE had directly released the cut-off date when the information bulletin was released in January 2023, there would have been no issues. How can a candidate who got permission to apply barely 25 days prior to the examination be equal to the candidates who had permission to apply 60 days prior to the examination", the petitioners argued.
The petition argues that there is a 5 month gap between the date of examination and the date the counselling which cannot commence before 11.08.2023 (the final internship cut-off date) and the same would be detrimental for the post resident doctors. The eligibility criteria as per Clause 4.1 of the Information Bulletin 2023-24 required the candidates to have completed one year of internship or are likely to complete the internship on or before 31st March, 2023. The clause was alleged to be restrictive. The candidates who would not complete one-year internship by 31st March, 2023 were not aware of their ineligibility before the Information Bulletin was released on 07.01.2023. The petition claims that Clause 4.1 rendered 75% candidates ineligible. The ineligible candidates and concerned organisations sent presentations to NBE requesting it to postpone the NEET-PG examination and to also extend the internship eligibility date. On 13.01.2023, the NBE extended the internship cut-off date to 30.06.2023. Again, representations were made seeking a further extension as more than 13,000 candidates were still ineligible. As no response was received from NBE, some of the candidates approached the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The High Court issued notice in the matter and permitted the petitioners to apply for NEET-PG 2023 examination. Another similar petition was also allowed by the High Court. In the interim, the NBE was asked to accept the applications without any reference to Clause 4.
On 07.02.2023, NBE provided an extension of the internship cut-off date to 11.08.2023. Within 2 days, the eligible candidates were asked to apply for NEET-PG 2023 examination. However, these candidates were only provided centres from those cities, which were available at the time of closure of the previous registration window on 27.01.2023. Therefore, it is quite obvious that several candidates would not get the centre of their choice and have to travel extensively to take the examination. The petition points out that if the candidates have to travel outside the city they would necessarily have to take leave from the ongoing internship.
The petition categorically submits that the petitioners are ready and willing to appear in the NEET-PG 2023-24 examination, however considering the action of NBE is unjust and arbitrary, it has been impugned. The grounds on which the challenge has been asserted are that the candidates are made to suffer due to mismanagement on the part of NBE; the examination date was released by NBE without consulting the State Medical bodies; lack of time to prepare in addition to the hectic internship schedules; timely notice regarding eligibility was not provided; the schedule of the examination as it stands today will not regularize the examination process as the 2023-24 session cannot commend before 11.08.2023.
The petitioners therefore seek to defer NEET-PG exam by three months in view of the fact that the counselling cannot happen before August 11, 2023.
Two sets of petitions have been filed seeking postponement of NEET-PG 2023-24, one through Advocate-on-Record, Ms. Charu Mathur and the other through Advocate-on-Record, Mr. Milind Kumar.
[Case Title: Ganesh Pawar And Ors. v. Union of India And Ors. WP(C) No. 247/2023]
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