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Panel to study CLAT language variations
By Sanjiv Dube
NEW DELHI : The Bar Council of India (BCI) has constituted a seven-member committee to assess if Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) for admissions to 22 national law universities could be organised in regional languages.

The all-India test is currently held in English only and National Law University, Delhi holds its own admission test.

“The Council being the regulator of Legal Education and Legal Profession, prima facie is of the view that no deserving candidate should be deprived from giving the CLAT on account of his/her inability to be proficient in English”, BCI Secretary Srimanto Sen said in a letter dated June 30 to petitioners who had moved the Delhi High Court demanding CLAT to be held in regional languages. The High Court had asked BCI consider the demand.

“…the knowledge or lack of English language does not determine ones intelligence, ability, acumen, dedication, IQ etc., therefore, prima facie the exam should be conducted in vernacular languages too. In fact the Bar Council of India conducts All India Bar Examination in 11 languages including English,” said BCI, which has set up a seven-member panel to examine the issue.

Headed by a former Chief Justice of a High Court, the panel includes former and sitting vice-chancellors of national law universities, academics and two members of BCI.

Terming it a “multi-dimensional” issue, BCI said, “Another aspect that would be required to be considered is, as to in how many vernacular languages are semester exams being conducted in Law Universities across the country, as on date. It is but obvious that after clearing CLAT, the next request could be to hold semester exams in regional languages too in National Law Universities.”

SC scraps KEA ten-year rule for med admissions
From Our Correspondent
On April 4, 2019 the Supreme Court declared as invalid the Karnataka government notification necessitating 10-year study in the state as a precondition for admission to postgraduate medical/dental college government quota seats.

A bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice U U Lalit ordered the Karnataka government and Karnataka Examinations Authority (KEA) to "suitably modify and amend" the Information Bulletin of March 10 and republish the calendar of events for the admission process for NEET-PG 2018.

According to Clause 4 of the Information Bulletin jointly issued by Karnataka's Directorate of Medical Education, and Karnataka Examination Authority the eligibility criteria, among others, for government quota seats included Karnataka domicile and either of their parents must have resided or studied in the state for a minimum of 10 years.

The court allowed the writ petition filed by Dr Kriti Lakhina and 43 other candidates, who belonged to other states but had completed their MBBS and BDS courses from Karnataka's medical colleges after securing their admission on the basis of all-India quota. They contended that the condition of domicile for admission to MD, MS and postgraduate Diploma seats in Karnataka was invalid and unconstitutional.

Delivering the judgement the bench relied heavily on two cases -- the Pradeep Jain case and Vishal Goyal and Others vs State of Karnataka and others. The court said that "the State of Karnataka in its written submissions sought to justify the action but did not explain how the decision in Vishal Goyal would not be applicable in the present case."

Opposing the contention, the Medical Council of India (MCI) pointed out that the Karnataka government had brought a similar Information Bulletin in 2014 with identical eligibility criteria, which the Supreme Court had set aside in the case of 'Vishal Goyal' saying preference based on domicile would be violative of the principle of equality.

The court had then agreed that the Information Bulletin for PGET-2014 did not actually give institutional preference to students who had passed MBBS/BDS from colleges or universities in Karnataka but made some of them ineligible to take the entrance test. It had then held the said clause as ultra vires of Article 14 (equality) of the Constitution and declared the conditions as null and void.

Earlier on March 27 the Supreme Court had specifically told Karnataka government to stop taking any step on its Karnataka Examination Authority notification dated March 10.


Relief to students. NEET, JEE shifted to Sept

By Sanjiv Dube
On July 3 the Human Resource Development Ministry (MHRD) officially announced the postponement of the coveted Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to undergraduate engineering and medical courses respectively.

They will now be held in September, the government said, allaying fear of lakhs of students and parents.

"Keeping in mind the safety of students and to ensure quality education we have decided to postpone #JEE & #NEET examinations," Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Nishank Pokhriyal tweeted on Friday evening, a PIB press release reported.

According to the new schedule, the JEE-Main will now be held from September 1 to 6; JEE Advanced on Sept 27 and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) will be held on Sept 13, the press note said quoting the minister.

The two exams were first postponed on May 5. The NEET was earlier scheduled for July 26, while the JEE-Mains was to be held from July 18-23. The JEE-Advanced, conducted for admission to Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), was earlier scheduled for August 23.

The wide spread of pandemic Covid-19 had rendered the JEE and NEET  schedule redundant, leaving lakhs of students and parents' to pass sleepless nights. On July 1 the parents of about 4,000 NRI students based in West Asia had filed a plea in the Supreme Court demanding that NEET centres be set up in those countries or the examination be postponed.

Around nine lakh aspirants have registered for the JEE (Main), while 16 lakhs have registered for the NEET.

The Minister had on Thursday set up a panel to review the situation. “Looking at the prevailing circumstances and requests received from students and parents appearing for JEE and NEET examinations, a committee consisting of (National Testing Agency Director General Vineet Joshi) and other experts has been advised to review the situation & submit its recommendations to HRD Ministry latest by tomorrow," the press note said.

Both examinations are conducted by the NTA constituted by the MHRD.

Apex court strikes down age bar for NEET

By Our Correspondent
On December 6, 2018 the Supreme Court allowed candidates aged 25 years and above to apply and appear in the NEET-UG 2019 examination.

In its interim order the apex court directed the National Testing Agency (NTA), set up to conduct the NEET exams, to keep its portal open for a week to enable candidates to apply for the exam. The court  impleaded NTA as a party in the case, asking it to file its response in four weeks and posted the case for January.

A three-judge Bench led by Justice S.A. Bobde observed that “If they are allowed to appear in the examination, they shall take the examination provisionally subject to the final outcome of these matters (case)”.

The medical aspirants Jalaludheen T. and others had approached the Supreme Court against a Medical Council of India norm laying down upper age limits for applying for NEET for MBBS and BDS courses.

The group of aspirants have challenged the Delhi High Court’s May 11 judgement dismissing the pleas challenging the MCI notification of January 22, 2018, laying down the upper age limit of 25 years and 30 years for general and reserved categories, respectively.

The students have argued that the limitation of 25 years was “completely arbitrary”.

They said lifting the upper age limits' criterion would usher in more competitiveness, talent and would be ultimately for the betterment of the medical professions. They said the country needed more doctors.

However, the High Court had earlier struck down a clause in the January 22 notification, which barred candidates who have studied in open school or students who have had Biology or Biotechnology as an additional subject or those who had taken more than two years to complete their 11th and 12th or those who had studied privately from appearing in NEET.

SC damns govt for NEET order but refuses to stay

By Sanjiv Dube
On July 14,2016 the three judge Supreme Court bench hearing the
National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) case criticised the NEET ordinance calling it "disturbing, unwarranted and not proper" but refused to stay it in the interest of the students.

The bench, comprising Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, Justice A R Dave and Justice Adarsh K Goel said that staying the ordinance at this stage would trigger chaos as lakhs of students across 17 States have already written exams in their respective States.

The ordinance, called the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Ordinance 2016 issued by the government on May 24, 2016 allowed States to conduct their own common entrance exams for admission to MBBS and BDS seats in government colleges despite the Supreme Court order on May 9, 2016 that only NEET would prevail.

"Prime facie, we found that the validity of the ordinance is in doubt. Since 50% of the states (17) had already held their examinations, we do not grant any relief," the bench said.

The court said it favoured a single common entrance test for all medical colleges in order to bring uniformity in the examination in the interest of students and for maintaining a minimum standard.

In a strong comment on medical colleges admitting students after taking money, Justice Dave said, "What to talk about the middle class. It is even impossible for upper middle class candidates to get admission in medical colleges. Think of it..if you and I have to be treated by a doctor who paid Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore for admission."

NGO Sankalp Charitable Trust and Anand Rai, who claimed to be Madhya Pradesh's Vyapam scam whistleblower, sought a stay on the May 24 ordinance that allowed states to conduct their own exams for academic session 2016-17.

Opposing the prayer Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi submitted that the NEET was mooted in the Medical Council of India regulations as part of the subordinate legislation and the government had power to regulate it. Countering petitioner's plea, he said it would affect lakhs of students, if the ordinance was stayed.

May 9 order was passed despite objections from several States and private medical colleges that they have their own exams and many are underway or about to begin. The court simply had asked then to fall in line.

Expressing its displeasure the bench said : “Your move to bring this ordinance despite our order was not proper. It was unwarranted. It should not have happened. When the court said ‘no’ to State exams, you disregard us and issued an ordinance for State exams... Did you not think about the confusion it would cause to the children? After all these are our children,” Justice Dave told Attorney-General.

Mr. Rohatgi said that the ordinance was not meant as an affront to the Supreme Court’s authority. He said the ordinance merely opened an “option” for States to either opt for NEET or conduct their exams exclusively for State seats for the current academic year.

NEET is back, SC bench scraps earlier judgement

By Rajiv Shukla
In a landmark move the Supreme Court of India on April 11, 2013 recalled its one of the most controversial judgements -- NEET case judgement -- and ordered that "the case be heard afresh".

The case, called National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) case was delivered on July 18, 2013 by the Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir a dayAltamash Kabir before he was to retire, giving ample relief to private medical colleges. Some  private medical colleges had challenged the Medical Council of India and Dental Council of India regulations on admissions to medical and dental college -- and the relief allowed them to have their way in the matter of admissions.

With the recall of the judgement status quo ante has been restored and the MCI has been told to organise a combined all-India admission test for private and government medical colleges.

However, the MCI vice-chairman Dr C V Bhirmanandham has expressed his inability to hold the all-India test this year because of paucity of time and this may allow the private players to have their way this year as well.

Hearing the review petitions on April 11 the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice A R Dave and comprising Justices A K Sikri, R K Agrawal, A K Goel and R Banumathi recalled the judgment dated July 18, 2013 which had quashed NEET. It said the “majority verdict“ delivered by then Chief Justice Altamas Kabir did not consider an earlier SC judgment that was binding on the bench, nor had he consulted other members of his bench.

Incidentally Justice A R Dave, who headed the 5-judge Constitution bench that recalled the earlier order had given a dissenting verdict in the NEET case. In his April 11 order he specified that he was not consulted by the then CJI Altamas Kabir.

The April 11 order comes just a month before separate entrance tests are to be held for government and private medical colleges, putting lakhs of students in confusion. There are over 400 medical colleges in the country and lakhs of students sit for admission tests for over 52,000 MBBS seats. Since 2013, state governments and private colleges have conducted separate examinations for these.

Monday's order leaves Medical Council of India with the onerous task of conducting the NEET at a short notice as students have already filled in forms for several entrance tests.

Immediately after judgment reviving the NEET was pronounced in open court, stunned lawyers appearing for private colleges, pleaded that the SC clarify the consequences. The bench replied that “natural consequence“ was that NEET comes into force. It said the court would give a fresh hearing on constitutional validity of NEET but in the meantime, the exam will be restored. The lawyers then pleaded that the MCI's notification to bring NEET back be stayed till its validity was decided afresh and said that in 2013, too, an interim stay was given. The bench, however, rejected the plea saying the interim order was only for one academic session and it could not continue.

“After giving our thoughtful and due consideration, we are of the view that the judgment delivered in Christian Medical College needs reconsideration,“ the bench said.

Recalling earlier order the Constitution bench allowed review petitions by the Union government and the Medical Council of India (MCI) against the July 18, 2013, verdict and restored the NEET 2011 notification.

“The NEET regulations are restored and MCI can conduct the examinations pending the fresh judgement,” the order said.

According to the 2011 notification, the CBSE was to conduct the tests for admission to MBBS and BDS courses and the National Board of Examination for the PG programmes.

The 2013 verdict

The 2013 verdict had created a buzz in the apex court corridors as an advocate had posted the outcome on a social networking site in advance. However, Justice Kabir had reportedly said he was not aware of the leak of the judgment.

While Justice Vikramjit Sen (since retired) had shared the views and findings of Justice Kabir against the NEET, Justice Dave had in his dissenting verdict said that the three judges "had no discussion on the subject due to paucity of time". Justice Dave had stressed that this was not the normal practice.

Justice Dave had written in 2013 that “one of the main considerations of having one common entrance test conducted by the Medical Council of India is to check the malaise of money-making business in the admission process by selling their seats for crores, which has been going on for the last so many years in private colleges.”

The Christian Medical College, Vellore; the States of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu; several associations of private medical colleges; DD Medical College and DD Hospital, Tamil Nadu; and various private medical colleges had filed petitions in High Courts and obtained an interim stay on the applicability of the NEET on them. On the MCI’s petitions, these cases were transferred to the Supreme Court.


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