The decision by Tamilnadu State Government to cancel the NEET exam for admissions to Medical colleges in Tamilnadu State and take admissions based on XII Boards has raised many questions and created some level of confusion amongst Medical aspirants of other States too. It is however important to understand the genesis of NEET so that we can properly interpret this decision of Tamilnadu State Govt.
Since 2004, there were a number of litigations in various Courts in India as regards admission to undergraduate professional courses. The common fundamental point of these litigations was how to compare XII Boards marks of different Boards to grant admission to undergraduate professional courses. The eventual ruling of the Courts including the Supreme Court in all these cases was that a common Entrance exam for every professional course is the resolution as it is impossible to normalise the XII Boards marks of 27 different Boards in India. So, CET type exams started in India for all the professional courses.
Till 2016, there were almost 28 different Medical Entrance exams in India like AIIMS, JIPMER, AFMC, CMC-Vellore, AIPMT, MH-CET and so on. Having so many different exams created a lot of hassles for students as they had to study for different exam patterns and syllabus and fill multiple exam forms with clashing dates and participate in multiple admission counselling rounds. In order to streamline this, following a Supreme Court 2016 landmark judgement, the Union Govt introduced the NEET exam as a single national Entrance exam for admission to all medical and paramedical courses in all the Medical colleges in India. The NEET was given constitutional status by way of 2 amendment bills passed by both houses of Parliament in August 2016. Thus, NEET became sacrosanct for Medical Education in India.
From 2017-2021, NEET went on to become the largest competitive exam in India with over 16 lacs students appearing for NEET every year. National Testing Agency has been smoothly conducting the NEET exam since 2018 onwards.
The latest move by Tamilnadu Govt to ban NEET exam in their State challenges the Supreme Court 2016 judgement as well as constitutional status of NEET exam. The move shall also need the President’s consent to become a law. Hence, we will have to wait and watch what stand the President of India takes on the matter and whether the Union Govt and the Supreme Court choose to intervene or not. In any case, such regressive steps from State Govt taken abruptly creates an air of confusion and uncertainty for lacs of future Medical aspirants. Policy stability in the arena of Entrance exams is much needed and such moves like that of TN Govt negatively disrupt the mindset of students. TN Govt must also understand that taking admission on basis of XII Boards exam again creates the old problem of normalisation of different Boards marks. Also, students who aspire to be doctors must not shy away from studying for challenging exams like NEET. XII Boards exams are usually rote learning based whereas NEET exam tests understanding of basic concepts and their applications quite well. So, the sustainability of this move by TN Govt will be watched keenly in the days to come as it can potentially trigger a domino effect with more States following suit if it is allowed to pass.