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Supreme Court Lowers NEET 2020 Qualifying Cut Off By 10 Percentile For Admission To First Year BDS Course For Year 2020-2021

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
8 Feb 2021 1:45 PM GMT
Supreme Court Lowers NEET 2020 Qualifying Cut Off By 10 Percentile For Admission To First Year BDS Course For Year 2020-2021
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The Supreme Court directed that the vacant seats in first year BDS course for the year 2020-2021 shall be filled up from the candidates who have participated in the NEET (UG) courses for the year 2020-2021 after lowering the percentile mark by 10 percentile.The bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Krishna Murari observed that lowering the minimum marks and reducing percentile...

The Supreme Court directed that the vacant seats in first year BDS course for the year 2020-2021 shall be filled up from the candidates who have participated in the NEET (UG) courses for the year 2020-2021 after lowering the percentile mark by 10 percentile.

The bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Krishna Murari observed that lowering the minimum marks and reducing percentile for admission to the first-year BDS course would not amount to lowering the standards of education.

National Eligibility-cum Entrance Test (NEET) examination 2020 for admission to the first year of Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) conducted on 13-09-2020. Dental Council of India, recommended the lowering of qualifying cut off percentile for admission to BDS course for the academic year 2020-2021. The candidates who did not obtain the minimum marks prescribed by Sub-Regulation (ii) of Regulation II of the Dental Council of India, Revised BDS Course Regulations, 2007 approached the Apex Court aggrieved by non-acceptance of their representation seeking a lower cut-off.

While considering their plea, the court noted that in 2019, the Centre had lowered the qualifying cut off percentile for NEET (UG) 2019 for admission to BDS course by 10.00 percentile for each category. The court also noted the three reasons given for the decision not to lower minimum marks: 1) the ratio of available seats vis-à-vis eligible candidates is 1:7 and therefore there is no dearth of eligible candidates.2) there is no need to reduce the minimum mark is that there are sufficient number of Dentists in India. 3) Lack of keenness of students to join BDS, especially in private colleges which charge exorbitant fee, as they are interested in MBBS course. Disagreeing with these reasons given by the Centre, the bench observed thus:

"The stand of the Central Government is that there are seven candidates available for each seat and, therefore, there is no need to lower the minimum marks. This calculation of the first Respondent is without taking into account the fact that NEET (UG) 2020 is conducted for admission into different courses like MBBS, BDS, UG AYUSH and other medical courses. Admissions for UG AYUSH and other UG medical courses are included in the NEET for the first time from this year. That apart, it is clear from the letter of the Dental Council of India that NEET has been made mandatory for admission to AIIMS and AIIMS like institutions and ZIPMER. Hitherto, AIIMS and AIIMS like institutions and other institutions like ZIPMER were conducting their own separate entrance test. The total number of seats available for the academic year 2020-2021 for MBBS are 91,367, BDS are 26,949 and AYUSH are 52,720 making it a total of 1,71,036 seats. Whereas, the NEET qualified candidates are 7,71,500. The ratio of seats available vis-à-vis eligible students is 1 : 4.5 and not 7. The basis for the decision to not reduce minimum marks that there are sufficient eligible candidates is without considering the above vital facts. The decision which materially suffers from the blemish of overlooking or ignoring, wilfully or otherwise, vital facts  bearing on the decision is bad in law4 . The decision of the first respondent was propelled by extraneous considerations like sufficient number of Dentists being available in the country and the reasons for which students were not inclined to get admitted to BDS course which remits in the decision being unreasonable. Consideration of factors other than availability of eligible students would be the result of being influenced by irrelevant or extraneous matters. There is an implicit obligation on the decision maker to apply his mind to pertinent and proximate matters only, eschewing the irrelevant and the remote.
The first Respondent reduced the minimum marks for admission into first-year BDS course for the year 2019-2020 in consultation with the second Respondent. In spite of the recommendation made by the second Respondent to reduce the minimum marks for the year 2020-2021, the first Respondent deemed it fit not to lower the minimum marks for the current year. While arriving at a decision on 30.12.2020 not to lower the minimum marks it does not appear that the first Respondent has consulted the second Respondent in accordance with the proviso to Sub-Regulation (ii) of the Regulation II. There is no dispute that the minimum marks have been reduced by the first Respondent for the super speciality courses for the last year and AYUSH courses for the current year. If reducing minimum marks amounts to lowering the standards, the first Respondent would not do so for super speciality courses. We are in agreement with Mr. Maninder Singh, learned Senior Counsel for the Petitioners that lowering the minimum marks and reducing percentile for admission to the first-year BDS course would not amount to lowering the standards of education."

Managements of private Dental Colleges shall consider reducing the fee charged by them to encourage students to join the Colleges

The Court agreed with the Centre's contention that fee charged by the private dental colleges is a deterrent for the seats not being filled up. "Only 265 out of 7,000 seats are vacant in government colleges. All the other unfilled seats are in private Dental colleges. The Managements of private Dental Colleges shall consider reducing the fee charged by them to encourage students to join the Colleges", the court said.

In this context, the bench observed that the Judicial review of administrative action is permissible on grounds of illegality, irrationality and procedural impropriety and an administrative decision is flawed if it is illegal. The court said:

"A decision is illegal if it pursues an objective other than that for which the power to make the decision was conferred . There is no unfettered discretion in public law . Discretion conferred on an authority has to be necessarily exercised only for the purpose provided in a Statute. The discretion exercised by the decision maker is subject to judicial scrutiny if a purpose other than a specified purpose is pursued. If the authority pursues unauthorized purposes his decision is rendered illegal. If irrelevant considerations are taken into account for reaching the decision or relevant considerations have been ignored, the decision stands vitiated as the decision maker has misdirected himself in law."

Allowing the writ petition, the bench issued the following direction:

"We direct that the vacant seats in first year BDS course for the year 2020-2021 shall be filled up from the candidates who have participated in the NEET (UG) courses for the year 2020-2021 after lowering the percentile mark by 10 percentile. The candidates belonging to the general category who have secured 40 percentile shall be eligible to be considered for admission in the first year BDS course for the year 2020-2021. Likewise, students belonging to the SC/ST/OBC categories shall be qualified if they have secured 30 percentile. In so far as General candidates with bench mark disabilities specified under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, they would be eligible if they have secured 35 percentile. The admissions shall be made strictly in accordance with merit and the admission process shall be completed by 18.02.2021. Any other student who has qualified in NEET (UG) - 2020 even without lowering the minimum marks and is willing to participate in the admission process shall also be considered for admission to BDS course."

CASE: Harshit Agarwal vs Union of India [Writ Petition (C) No.54 of 2021]
CORAM:  Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Krishna Murari
COUNSEL: Sr. Adv Maninder Singh, Adv Krishna Dev Jagarlamudi, ASG Aishwarya Bhati
CITATION: LL 2021 SC 69

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