Sankalp Charitable Trust & Anr v. Union of India & Ors

The introduction of NEET as an entrance exam for Medical Colleges was challenged because it provided a ranking which even private colleges were asked to adhere to. Minority institutions raised doubts about this as a challenge to their independency. Read along to know more about the case that upheld the validity of NEET.

Introduction

The judgment rendered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Sankalp Charitable Trust & Anr v. Union of India & Ors has wide implications for the writ petition filed by the Medical Council of India and Dental Council of India against the verdict in Christian Medical College v. Union of India which disallowed States to conduct their own entrance exams and providing relief to the various underprivileged students.

The Government had brought in place a format for all the aspiring medical students of the country which to be known as National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET). NEET was initially scheduled to take place in 2012 but because of the opposition from various States, it was put to hold.

Issues before the Court

The major issue to be decided by the Hon’ble Court in Sankalp Charitable Trust & Anr v. Union of India & Ors was that whether the decision rendered in Christian Medical College v. Union of India[1]  was valid or contrary to section 33 read with Section 19A of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and Section 20 of the Dentists Act, 1948 which empowers Medical and Dental Council of India to regulate standards of education by issuing notifications.

Judgment and Analysis

The Hon’ble Court held that NEET should be held and notwithstanding any order passed by any court earlier with regard to not holding NEET, this order shall operate. Further, the court held that the judgment in Christian Medical College v. Union of India is no longer valid.

The total no. of seats in MBBS was 49,990 out of which 25,330 belonged to government medical colleges and 24,660 to private medical colleges[2]. Earlier State Government selected students through the All India Pre-Medical Test which is now replaced by NEET.

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The Issue was regarding the 24,660 seats which were reserved for private medical colleges. NEET does not alter the number of seats offered by private medical colleges and minority institutions. Instead, it provides a ranking which the private medical colleges will have to adhere while selecting students.

In 2014, the Medical Council of India issued 2 notifications, one amending Medical Council of India Regulations on Graduate Medical Education, 1997 and the other amending MCI Postgraduate Educational Regulations, 2000. Similar notifications were issued by the Dental Council of India.

In Christian Medical College v. Union of India, the argument raised was that NEET violated fundamental right as the minority has its own procedure and method of admission for selection of students, and its purpose is nationalization which will, in turn, deprive the underprivileged. Christian Medical College, Vellore alleged that MCI and DCI have power to only make recommendations and not conduct the examination themselves.  The petitioners cited the case TMA Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka[3] where it was held that except for 2 things namely, providing minimum qualification and eligibility, the state could not regulate the admission process.

The respondents, however, contended that the purpose of NEET was to bring in uniformity in examination standards.  It was also submitted that regulations of Section 33 of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 were framed to apply to both majority and minority institutions.

Hence, the minority have not been denied any rights.

The private medical colleges would retain the option of offering seats to students of their community on the basis of merit list provided by NEET. Hence, till the admission process qualified the “triple test” laid in P.A. Inamdar[4] i.e. fair and transparent it would be unjust to interfere in the admission process of an institution.

In Kerala Education Bill, 1957, In re[5], it was observed that admission to educational institutions is a crucial part of the right of an educational institution which cannot be regulated except to lay down standards for maintaining the excellence of education. In the case of aided institutions, the State may direct a certain number of students to be admitted other than the method adopted by the institution. However, in an unaided minority, right to admit students cannot be interfered with. The Court in Christian Medical College v. Union of India[6] differed with the decision passed in Kerala Education Bill case and held that for unaided minority, a certain number of students from other communities should also be admitted to maintaining a secular character and described it as “sprinkling effect”[7].

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Secondly, Christian Medical College, Vellore contended that students from different State Boards take this examination and they are quite unfamiliar with the pattern followed by CBSE. Hence, it would be a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution. Thirdly, Christian Medical College, Vellore argued that as Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and Dentists Act, 1948 framed under Schedule VII List I Entry 66, its notifications were delegated legislations hence they cannot override legislations of various States under Schedule VII List III Entries 25 and 26.

The court in Sankalp Charitable Trust & Anr v. Union of India & Ors speaking through Altamas Kabir, C.J., in Christian Medical College v. Union of India held: Although Article 19(6) permits reasonable restriction on Article 19(1)(g), act of Medical Council of India would not qualify as reasonable restriction but is interference and therefore, the four acts are ultra vires Articles 19(1)(g), 25, 26(a), 29(1) and 30(1).

Post it’s in Christian Medical College v. Union of India, the Medical Council of India filed a petition wherein the 5-Judge Bench agreed to hear petition[8] and held that “decision of Christian Medical College[18] needs reconsideration”.

Later, in Sankalp Charitable Trust & Anr v. Union of India and Ors [9] NEET was held to be valid. The Court asserted that there is a need for an appropriate standard in place for recruiting doctors who are well versed in medicine and the same can be achieved through NEET.

The President also promulgated two ordinances to amend the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and the Dentists Act, 1948 making it applicable for the academic year 2016? 2017. The Ordinance permitted the State Governments to conduct their respective entrance tests for 2016-2017.

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[1] (2013) 14 SCC 539.

[2] Ayushi Gupta, Fourth-year student, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, National Law University, Lucknow, The SCC Online Bloghttp http://blog.scconline.com/post/2016/06/08/sankalp-charitable-trust-v-union-of-india/

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[3] (2002) 8 SCC 481.

[4] (2005) 6 SCC 537.

[5] AIR 1958 SC 956.

[6] (2014) 2 SCC 305.

[7] Ayushi Gupta, Fourth year student, Dr Ram Manohar Lohia, National Law University, Lucknow, The SCC Online , Bloghttp://blog.scconline.com/post/2016/06/08/sankalp-charitable-trust-v-union-of-india/

[8] Medical Council of India v. Christian Medical College, (2016) 4 SCC 342

[9] 2016 SCC OnLine SC 366.