Though terming the NDA government’s move to issue an ordinance which effectively diluted an apex court order upholding NEET as the sole window for admissions to MBBS and BDS courses this year as “quite disturbing and without taste”, the Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stay the ordinance.
The ordinance issued by the government on May 24, 2016 allowed States to conduct their own exams despite the Supreme Court order on May 9, 2016 that only NEET would prevail.
The apex court said ordering a freeze on the ordinance at this stage would trigger chaos as lakhs of students across 17 States have already written exams in their respective States.
“Prima facie we find that the validity of the NEET ordinance is open to doubt. But as 50 per cent of the States have already conducted their exams, we do not want to grant the petitioners any interim relief,” a three-judge Bench led by Justice Anil R. Dave observed in its order.
The 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.
The Bench was hearing petitions filed by Sankalp Charitable Trust and Vyapam scam whistleblower Anand Rai on how the government took the liberty, by issuing the May 24 ordinance, of donning the role of an “appellate court of the Supreme Court”.
“By issuing this ordinance and delaying the compliance of your order by a year, the government engaged in a judicial function… became your appellate power. This is about respect for an institution under the Constitution —the highest court of the land. Once an order is passed, it has to be complied with,” senior advocate Amarendra Sharan, for the petitioners, submitted.
Mr. Sharan said if the court does not check this act of the government, successive governments would also indulge in bypassing court orders and rule of law would suffer.
“We find that even after our order on May 9, several States ignored us and continued with their own exams. This was not in good taste. We find that out of 36, 17 States have already held their own exams,” Justice Dave observed.
“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 issue 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 addressed Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, representing the Centre.
Mr. Rohatgi said 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.
He submitted that the government could have “abolished” NEET if it had wanted to circumvent the May 9 order.
“We did not do that. Our ordinance only amends the NEET notification. This amendment to have State exams this year along with NEET has already been adopted by more than half the country… Who are these people here to come to court? If States or students have a grievance with our ordinance, they have to come to court. They have not come,” Mr. Rohatgi countered.
“Your ordinance was not warranted. All we wanted was to bring uniformity,” Justice Dave responded.
“Everyday, even on May 9, exams were being held in various States. In Tamil Nadu, admissions are over… These people come here eight weeks after the court order. My Lords should not act on their petitions,” Mr. Rohatgi urged.