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Tamil Nadu has decided for a law to be passed by the Parliament with its new Bill against the NEET.
In a gist about the law against the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), the Tamil Nadu government on Monday, September 13, passed a bill in the state Assembly seeking exemption from the centralised exam, and making Class 12 exam marks the basis for medical admissions for the undergraduate courses. All parties, except the BJP, supported the new Tamil Nadu Admission to Undergraduate Medical Degree Courses Bill, 2021. In the statement and reasons, the Tamil Nadu government has said that this Bill is being moved as the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test is not a fair or equitable method of admission, and that seems to favour the rich and elite sections in society.
The aim of the Bill is to discard the requirement of NEET for admission to undergraduate medical degree courses, and instead of which provide admission on the basis of the marks obtained in the qualifying examination (Class 12 examination) through normalisation. The government has said that the Bill is being brought in “to ensure social justice, uphold equality and equal opportunity, protect all vulnerable student communities from being discriminated."
What is the new bill about?
Tamil Nadu has in the past suggested similar Bills and ordinances, which have not received the President’s thumbs up. However, this time, the Bill focuses less on education, and more on the topic of ensuring public health to all, as a fundamental right of citizens.
“The Tamil Nadu Bill addresses NEET with a very different perspective. While one of the angles is federalism, the second and the more interesting angle, is coming from the public health perspective. Tamil Nadu is saying that this measure is actually necessary for public health, rather than just professional medical education, therefore bringing into question the validity of NEET itself. This is the first time a state has challenged on this and it seems like the Tamil Nadu government has new grounds to contest NEET,”
The Bill relies on the findings of a panel that was set up by the government to study the impact of NEET in the state.
The Tamil Nadu government has cited this committee’s findings in the statement of objects and reasons, stating that the committee has found that “if NEET continues for a few more years, the health care system of Tamil Nadu will be very badly affected,” that “there may not be enough doctors postings at Primary Health Centres or Government Hospitals, and that “the rural and urban poor may not be able to join the medical courses.”
The Bill was introduced in the House based on the panel's report recommendation that "the state government may undertake immediate steps to eliminate NEET from being used in admission to medical programmes at all levels by following the required legal and or legislative procedures."
According to the Constitution, though the State and Union both have the power to legislate, the law passed by the Parliament prevails and the law made by the State is void. Article 254 of the Constitution addresses this ‘repugnancy’ of laws, and any inconsistency between laws made by Parliament and laws made by the Legislatures of States. In such cases, President’s assent is required for such State laws that are inconsistent with Union laws and if approved, this law will apply only to that particular state, and not be applicable nationwide. Take for example, Tamil Nadu and the Jallikattu Act of 2017.
Now, since Tamil Nadu’s new NEET exemption Bill goes directly against the Union’s law, the Tamil Nadu Governor is likely to forward it to the President. Earlier in 2017, when the Tamil Nadu government then led by the AIADMK tried to pass a similar Bill exempting medical admissions from NEET, it did not get President’s assent, as it was directly in conflict with the Union government’s law on NEET.
Tamil Nadu’s next step could be to challenge the Medical Council of India Amendment (under which NEET was introduced) itself, and contest NEET as constitutionally invalid
"Tamil Nadu’s new Bill gives an opportunity to recast this whole debate whether NEET should exist or not on the basis of public health. The purpose is not to regulate medical education, but it is to ensure public health. The point of medical education is not to churn out doctors. It is to improve the healthcare system.The medical council can prescribe standards, but you cannot remove the matter of public health from the equation. This is why this Bill is an opportunity to completely reexamine some of our constitutional judgements on NEET as well
The Tamil Nadu government has said that the report of the committee makes it “apparent that NEET is not a fair or equitable method of admission since it favours the rich and elite section of the society." Also, the standard of medical education is no way diluted or affected merely by dispensing with the common entrance examination.
“Social groups affected the most were the students of Tamil medium, coming from rural backgrounds, students from government schools, those having parental income of less than Rs 2.5 lakh per annum, and the socially depressed and disadvantaged groups like the Most Backward Classes, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the Bill says. "Therefore, the Committee concludes that the NEET is against these disadvantaged groups." NEET, within its purview, also does not seem to ensure merit or standard of students who are eventually offered MBBS seats, the Bill says.
The government added that the committee’s findings indicate that the NEET has “only enabled and empowered comparatively low performing (in NEET score and Class XII score) students to get admission to MBBS.”
"Therefore, the question of NEET ensuring quality and merit of students is to be ruled out." Comparatively, it has been observed that the Class XII marks based admissions during the pre-NEET period ensured entry of quality and meritorious students, the government said.
Even before 2017, Tamil Nadu had one of the highest numbers of medical and dental educational institutions and the standard of graduating students was high. “Admissions based on Class XII marks would in no way lower the standard of education since the higher secondary syllabus is of a sufficient standard. Opposing the argument that NEET improved the standard of medical education,” the statement said that the standard of medical education is maintained during the UG course by following the syllabus prescribed by the National Medical Commission and students who are not able to clear the university exams are not awarded degrees. "Therefore, it is not during the admission stage that the standard of medical education is maintained,” the government has said.
barricades the underprivileged social groups from medical and dental education. This is against the very object of the equality clause enshrined in the Constitution and it also infringes the right to education of children from these underprivileged classes of society."
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