Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and MR Shah, JJ has held that prescribing uniform examination of NEET for admissions in the graduate and postgraduate professional courses of medical as well as dental science is not in violation of the rights of the unaided/aided minority to administer institutions under Articles 19(1) (g) and 30 read with Articles 25, 26 and 29(1) of the Constitution. It said,

The Court was hearing the challenge to the provisions of Medical Council Act, 196 and Dentists Act, 1948 and Regulations thereto by which a uniform NEET examination was made mandatory for admissions in graduate and postgraduate medical and dental courses. It was argued before the curt that State had no power to compel an unaided minority institution to admit students through a single centralized national examination such as NEET. The unaided minority professional colleges have the fundamental rights to choose the method and manner in which to admit its students, subject to satisfying the triple test of having a fair, transparent, and non­exploitative process.

The Court, in a 108-pages log verdict, referred to a long list of judgments dealing with the right of unaided/aided minorities and the scope of rights under Article 19(1)(g) and Article 30 of the Constitution and came to the conclusion that,

“rights under Articles 19(1)(g) and 30 read with Articles 25, 26 and 29(1) of the Constitution of India do not come in the way of securing transparency and recognition of merits in the matter of admissions. It is open to regulating the course of study, qualifications for ensuring educational standards. it is open to imposing reasonable restrictions in the national and public interest.”

Unimpressed with the present education system, the bench said that by and large, at present education is devoid of its real character of charity, it has become a commodity. To weed out evils from the system, which were eating away fairness in admission process, defeating merit and aspiration of the common incumbent with no means, the State has the right to frame regulatory regime for aided/unaided minority/private institutions as mandated by Directives Principles, Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

On Article 19(1)(g)

The fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g) was subject to reasonable restriction in the interest of the student’s community to promote merit, recognition of excellence, and to curb the malpractices. Uniform Entrance Test qualifies the test of proportionality and is reasonable.

The minority institutions are equally bound to comply with the conditions imposed under the relevant Acts and Regulations to enjoy affiliation and recognition, which apply to all institutions. In case they have to impart education, they are bound to comply with the conditions which are equally applicable to all.

“There is no right given to maladminister the education derogatory to the national interest. The quality of medical education is imperative to sub­serve the national interest, and the merit cannot be compromised.”

On Article 30

The rights to administer an institution under Article 30 of the Constitution are not above the law and other Constitutional provisions and hence, are not violated by provisions carved out in Section 10D of the MCI Act and the Dentists Act and Regulations framed by MCI/DCI. Reasonable regulatory measures can be provided without violating such rights available under Article 30 of the Constitution to administer an institution. Professional educational institutions constitute a class by themselves. Specific measures to make the administration of such institutions transparent can be imposed.

“The regulatory measures by prescribing NEET is to bring the education within the realm of charity which character it has lost. It intends to weed out evils from the system and various malpractices which decayed the system.”

Scope of Government interference

While the Court agreed that there was no doubt as to the concept of limited Government and least interference is welcomed, it however, said that in which field and to what extent balancing with the larger public and national interest is required.

The Constitution provides a limitation on the power of the State to interfere with life, liberty, and rights, however, the concept of limited government cannot be extended to a level when it defeats the very national interest.”

Holding that the impugned provisions qualify the doctrine of proportionality, the Court explained that the maladies with which professional education suffers in this country are writ large and that the regulatory framework created by the MCI/ DCI is concomitant of conditions, affiliation and recognition, and providing central examination in the form of NEET cannot be said to be violative of the rights under Articles 19(1)(g) and 30. The regulatory framework is not restrictive, but caters to the effective enjoyment of the rights conferred under the aforesaid provisions.

[Christian Medical Vellore Association v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 423  , decided on 29.04.2020]

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