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NEET SS 2021: PG Doctors Approach Supreme Court Challenging "Last Minute Changes" In Exam Pattern

Shruti Kakkar
17 Sep 2021 2:53 PM GMT
NEET SS 2021: PG Doctors Approach Supreme Court Challenging Last Minute Changes In Exam Pattern
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The Supreme Court on Monday will hear a writ petition challenging the "abrupt last-minute changes" made to the exam pattern/scheme by the National Board of Examinations ("NBE") in Medical Sciences. The petition has been filed by 41 qualified post-graduate doctors from across the country who aspire to become super-specialists by cracking National Eligibility cum Entrance Test...

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The Supreme Court on Monday will hear a writ petition challenging the "abrupt last-minute changes" made to the exam pattern/scheme by the National Board of Examinations ("NBE") in Medical Sciences. The petition has been filed by 41 qualified post-graduate doctors from across the country who aspire to become super-specialists by cracking National Eligibility cum Entrance Test – Super Specialization ('NEET-SS'), 2021.

The writ petition which seeks for striking down the changes on the ground of lack of authority as well as being manifestly arbitrary will be heard by the division bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathna.

Doctors in the petition filed through Advocate Javedur Rahman have stated that although the dates of NEET SS 2021 was announced on July 23, 2021 but the changed pattern was made public more than a month thereafter on August 31, 2021 when only 2 months remained before NEET SS 2021 exams scheduled to be held on November 13 and 14.

In this context, the petitioner have submitted that they have all along been preparing in terms of the pattern that has been in place for the last three years, especially because on earlier occasions i.e. in 2018 and 2019 when changes in the pattern/scheme were proposed to be made, the changed pattern/scheme was made public almost 6 months prior to the NEET-SS exams to ensure availability of "ample time to the students for making preparations."

Contending that there was absolutely no reference to the exam pattern/ scheme or any change in the notice dated July 23, 2021 the petition states that,

"The Petitioners were surprised to see the scheme of the NEET SS exams in Part 4, having undergone a complete change without any sort of advance intimation, with only two months left for the exam whilst the Petitioners have all along been preparing in terms of the extant pattern/scheme of the exam, having absolutely no reason to think that any such drastic change will be made so close to the specified date and without the lawful authority i.e. the Central Government directing to do so."

It has further been contended that neither the National Board of Examination nor National Medical Commission have the authority under any law to make/approve changes to the pattern of exam. To substantiate their contention, the doctors have argued that no provision under the National Medical Commission Act, 2019 empowers the National Medical Commission to stipulate/approve of the pattern/scheme of conducting the NEET-SS exam.

"In fact, S.45 of the 2019 Act very clearly stipulates that the NMC shall be bound by the directions on questions of policy as the Central Government may give in writing to it from time to time. In the present case, the Central Government has not given in writing to the NMC any directions to change the exam pattern as it had indicated in its letter dated 25.1.2018 whereby the NBE was "requested to publish the above pattern for conducting NEET (SS) exam, 2018 and onwards till further orders." In the absence of any such 'further orders' by the Central Government, it is respectfully submitted that the exam pattern as provided therein would continue for each year, starting from "2018 and onwards", petition also states.

Reliance has also been placed on Regulation 9 of Postgraduate Medical Education Regulations 2000 to aver that it is only the Central Government through the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare which can make changes to the exam pattern/ scheme of NEET SS exams.

Highlighting the manifest arbitrariness in the decision to change the pattern/ scheme of the exam, the petition further states that NBE and NMC have given a complete go by to the specific directions of the Central Government to notify the students well in advance.

"They have also departed from their own established practice in the past of notifying the pattern on the announcement of the dates. This is crucial since the date for the NEET-SS, 2021, was announced on 23.7.2021, which is more than three months before the scheduled date of the exam. The Respondent No. 1 chose to wait for more than a month and only on 31.8.2021 published the information bulletin with the impugned changed pattern/scheme of exam," petition states.

PG Qualified doctors have also contended that the earlier pattern was conceptually designed to majorly test aspirants in subjects they wish to expertise in with some percentage on basic subjects but the new exam pattern would end up in aspirants taking super speciality subjects which they do not even like.

"In the end this system will produce doctors who do not have complete passion for the super speciality," doctors have averred in their petition.

In light of the above mentioned facts, doctors along with seeking for declaration of the information bulletin dated August 31, 2021 illegal and in excess of delegation of powers conferred by the NBE and NMC have also sought for seeking to declare only the Central Government through the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is empowered under existing laws to carry out changes in pattern/ scheme of NEET SS Exams.

Relief for restoration of the scheme/exam pattern for NEET SS 2021 along the same examination scheme on which NEET-SS, 2018 – NEET-SS, 2020 were conducted has also been sought for. In an alternative, PG qualified doctors due to paucity have also prayed for non implementation of the changes in exam pattern in respect of NEET SS 2021.

Case Title: Dr Prateek Rastogi & Ors v National Board of Examination and Ors


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