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T.N. and NEET: Stopping short of social justice

Context:

The Tamil Nadu Assembly has passed a Bill to dispense with the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET) and allow admission to medical courses based on Class 12 marks to “ensure social justice”.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Education, Government Policies and Initiatives), GS-II: Polity and Governance (Centre-State Relations)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The provisions of Permanent Exemption Bill for NEET in Tamil Nadu
  2. What is NEET and Arguments against NEET
  1. What is the dilemma now?
  2. Can states refuse to implement Central laws?

The provisions of Permanent Exemption Bill for NEET in Tamil Nadu

  • The Permanent Exemption Bill for NEET exempts medical aspirants in Tamil Nadu from taking NEET examination for admission to UG degree courses in Indian medicine, dentistry and homeopathy.
  • Instead, it seeks to provide admission to such courses on the basis of marks obtained in the qualifying examination, through “Normalisation methods”.
  • The aim of the Bill is to ensure “social justice, uphold equality and equal opportunity, protect all vulnerable student communities from being discriminated”, the government said.
  • The Bill seeks to bring vulnerable student communities to the “mainstream of medical and dental education and in turn ensure a robust public health care across the state, particularly the rural areas”.
  • The Bill opposes NEET because it “undermined the diverse societal representation in MBBS and higher medical studies, favouring mainly the affordable and affluent sections of the society and thwarting the dreams of underprivileged social groups”, it said.
  • NEET is not a fair or equitable method of admission since it favoured the rich and elite sections of society, the preamble of the Bill to override NEET said.
  • The preamble added that the high-level committee making a detailed study on NEET concluded that if it continued for a few more years, the health care system of Tamil Nadu would be severely affected and there may not be enough doctors for Primary Health Centres or state-run hospitals and that the rural and urban poor may not be able to pursue medical courses.
  • Admissions to medical courses are traceable to entry 25 of List III, Schedule VII of the Constitution and therefore the state legislature is competent to regulate the same, the Statement of Objects and Reasons (SoOAR) of the Bill.

What is NEET and Arguments against NEET

  • The Indian Medical Council (IMC) Act states that there shall be a uniform entrance examination to all medical educational institutions at UG level and PG level through such designated authority.
  • Union government issued an Ordinance in 2016 postponing the introduction of NEET to 2017  due to the opposition from many quarters.
  • The Indian Medical Council (IMC) Act states that there shall be a uniform entrance examination to all medical educational institutions at UG level and PG level through such designated authority.
  • Union government issued an Ordinance in 2016 postponing the introduction of NEET to 2017  due to the opposition from many quarters.
  • The Tamil Nadu state assembly says the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test is not a fair or equitable method of admission since it favoured the rich and elite sections of society who can afford coaching.
  • Some argue that NEET ‘undermined the diverse societal representation’ in MBBS and higher medical studies, favouring mainly the affluent class.
  • It is argued that the social groups most affected were the students of Tamil medium, having a rural background of government schools, those having a parental income of less than Rs 2.5 lakh per annum.
  • It was also said that if NEET continued, the health care system of the state would be severely affected and there may not be enough doctors for Primary Health Centres or state-run hospitals.

What is the dilemma now?

  • The question is whether the State government can exempt Section 10D of the IMC Act, which is a parliamentary law that falls under the Central List (Entry 66).
  • The introduction of internal reservation for government school students is also under challenge before the Madras High Court.
  • No other State in India has sought an exemption from NEET and therefore the possibility of exempting Tamil Nadu is low.
  • Also, if exempted, the fate of all-India quota of 15% and the condition of Tamil Nadu students who do not avail this quota by not writing the exam is a question.
  • Tamil Nadu government is of the view to conceive a better system with a fair admission process preserving merit and preventing rampant commercialisation.

Can states refuse to implement Central laws?

  • Since the T.N. law challenges a central law, it cannot come into force until and unless approved by the President of India.
  • Usually, when a state wants to amend a Central law made under one of the items in the concurrent list, it needs the clearance of the Centre.
  • When a state law contradicts a Central law on the same subject, the law passed by Parliament prevails.

Why has the Constitution envisaged such an arrangement?

  • This is an arrangement envisaged as most Parliament laws apply to the whole of India and states amending the Central laws indiscriminately could lead to inconsistencies in different regions on the application of the same law. In matters of trade and commerce, this could especially pose serious problems.
  • The other options available with the states are taking the Centre to the Supreme Court over the validity of these laws:
    • Article 131 of the Constitution provides exclusive jurisdiction to the Supreme Court to adjudicate matters between the states and the Centre.
    • Article 254 (2) of the Constitution empowers state governments to pass legislations which negate the Central acts in the matters enumerated under the Concurrent List. A state legislation passed under Article 254 (2) requires the assent of the President of India.

-Source: The Hindu

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September 2022
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