Courts Update NEET: Delhi HC refuses to hear a plea by...

NEET: Delhi HC refuses to hear a plea by the underage aspirant to allow him to write 2021 test

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New Delhi Aug 17(ILNS): The Delhi High Court, today, refused to entertain a plea by an underage NEET aspirant seeking directions to permit him to appear in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test-2021, conducted by the National Testing Agency, for taking admission in the undergraduate medical courses

The Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was hearing the plea by a student who was could not fill online application form for NEET-2021 as he does not satisfy the minimum age criteria required for taking the exam.

Dr. Surendra Kumar Yadav, representing the petitioner, submitted that the petitioner is underage by merely 12 months 26 days. He further submitted that the regulations prescribing minimum age criteria to be eligible to take the entrance test for admission to medical courses were formed 2 decades ago and are thereby, obsolete in today’s time when the students are more mature and advanced than the children two decades ago. 
Per contra, Advocate Tanoodbhav Singhdev, appearing on the behalf of the National Medical Commission and the Dental Council of India, informed the Bench that the impugned regulation was amended in the year 2018 wherein the issue of minimum age criteria was reconsidered.

Rejecting the contention of the petitioner, the Bench refused to reduce the minimum age criteria for eligibility to take the NEET examination. The Bench underscored: “Primary role of the court is to interpret the law as it is, especially when the law is explicitly clear and unambiguous. The court is not concerned with the law as it ought to be.”The Bench opined that the cut-off age limit for taking the said examination is a policy decision by the concerned authorities, which cannot be interfered with. Accordingly, the petition was dismissed with a cost of Rs. 10,000, which is directed to be deposited with the Delhi State Legal Services Authority within a period of four weeks, which is to be utilized for the ‘Access to Justice’ program.  

Filed by one Akash Yadav through his natural guardian Dr. Surendra Kumar Yadav, the plea alleges that Rule 4.1 of the Regulations on Graduate Medical Education, 1997, requiring the candidate to complete 17 years of age ‘on or before December 31 of the year of admission to MBBS’ so as to be eligible to appear in the entrance test for MBBS program, is ultra vires of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956.

There is a 13-month gap between the age of the petitioner and the minimum age criteria requirement for filling the application form for NEET-2021, due to which the petitioner was unable to fill the form. The petitioner made several representations to the concerned authorities highlighting the issue faced by him in filling the online application form; however, no action has been taken as yet. Reliance was placed on a recent decision of the Madras High Court, wherein the Court allowed a similarly placed candidate to appear for NEET-2021. In light of the foregoing, the plea prays for amending the regulations, prescribing the qualifying age criteria for appearing in the NEET-UG medical entrance test, from 17 years to 15 years, and bringing it on par with JEE entrance test conducted for UG engineering courses.

The plea states thus: “Denial for Petitioner to fill the form for entrance examination for further/ higher education is violative of Fundamental Rights provided to citizens in the Constitution of India. It refrains the young aspirant, who is otherwise qualified to take the NEET examination but for the age bar created by the NTA in its online application form.”

On a previous occasion, the Bench of Justice Rekha Palli granted liberty to the petitioner to file a fresh petition challenging Regulation 4(1) of the Regulations on Graduate Medical Education, 1997, which prohibit a candidate from appearing in the NEET exam unless he has attained the age of 17 years, after Mr.Singhdev’s submission that until the said regulation is challenged, the petitioner cannot be permitted to appear in the NEET Examination, 2021./ILNS/KR/SNG

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