New Delhi: It's been a nerve-wracking wait for over eight lakh medical aspirants out of whom seven lakh were hoping to get one of the 31,000 MBBS seats available in the country. But the Supreme Court's verdict has shattered their dreams of sitting for only one entrance test - the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) - to get admission in MBBS, BDS and post-graduate courses in all medical colleges.
"It's a huge disappointment for us because we have been preparing according to the NEET pattern, which was introduced last year," said one of the students.
"Some exam is happening in Karnataka, some is happening in Andhra Pradesh. You can obviously not give all the exams. NEET was the only chance to apply for all colleges by giving a single exam," added another student.
The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, who retired on Thursday , in a majority 2-1 verdict quashed the notifications for the NEET, paving the way for private colleges to conduct their own examination.
The apex court verdict holding that common entrance test for admission in medical colleges "violates the rights of state and private institutions" is likely to have a fallout as such tests are conducted for other professional courses like engineering and management.
The private medical colleges, which moved the Supreme Court against the MCI decision, had pleaded that a single entrance exam was not practical in India.
"One examination process throughout the country in a country like India where pluralistic society is there, well it is a difficult proposition. For example, the syllabus is different at various levels," CEO Consortium of Colleges S Srikanth said.
Currently, every state and private college conduct its own entrance exams, plus there is an all India exam. A common entrance exam would have meant that students would have no longer been required to travel across the country to write multiple exams. Disappointed students are now planning to file a review petition in the case.
Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is also upset with the verdict. "Definitely, we are upset with the decision. We didn't expect this decision to come," he said.
"The apex court hasn't elaborated further on its decision. It should have said that this particular institution should not conduct the exam and this particular institution is capable of conducting the exam," the Health Minister added.
He has sought legal opinion on whether the Health Ministry can file a review petition on the Supreme Court order. With the apex court quashing the notification issued by MCI for holding NEET, the long-standing proposal of the Health Ministry to hold a common entrance test for all medical colleges has also been brought to a nought. The Health Ministry had started the process of holding NEET for MBBS, BDS and post-graduate medical courses in 2009.
The NEET has been dogged by controversies all along when some states earlier objected to holding of the exam only in one language and sought its holding in different regional languages. Some states also opted out of the all-India quota, while private universities and colleges opposed to the government proposal sought more time to prepare themselves for the all-India exam. They later challenged the MCI notification in the apex court.
Though the apex court has clarified that the verdict will not affect admissions made already, the verdict has come as a big blow to most of the students who were hoping that a common entrance exam was to do away with multiple entrance exams and check malpractices by private colleges.
Meanwhile, online counselling process for MBBS admissions on the basis of NEET exam is underway and the first round result under the all-India quota would be out on July 20, while the counselling process for the state quotas would be completed by August 2.
(With additional information from PTI)