Christian Medical College Vellore Association v. Union of India & Ors.
Transferred Case (Civil) No. 98 OF 2012
· Two notifications were issued by the Medical Council of India (MCI) and other two notifications were issued by the Dental Council of India (DCI) which were in question before the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court in this case for being violative of the rights of the minority (aided and/or unaided) educational institutions.
· The MCI issued notifications in the exercise of its power under the Act. The amendments were made in the Regulation on Graduate Medical Education, 1997 (Regulation) for selection of candidates for the (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Science (MBBS) course and Post Graduate (PG) course. The notifications issued by DCI also provided for procedure for Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) and Master of Dental Surgery (MDS).
· As a result, the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to the MBBS course and PG course and for BDS and MDS was introduced. The relevant amendment by way of Section 10D under the Act came into effect on 24 May 2016 for the common test for MBBS and PG courses. Section 10D of the Dentist Act, 1948 (Dentist Act) containing similar provisions for the common entrance test was also inserted with respect to the common course for BDS and MDS.
· Various questions were raised on the power of MCI and DCI to conduct NEET as it appeared to offend Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution and the rights of religious and linguistic minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice as guaranteed under Article 30 of the Constitution.
· Accordingly, the present matter along with other connected matters were filed for consideration before the Supreme Court.
Issue - The Supreme Court evaluated whether by providing centralized examination system – NEET for admission to MBBS, PG, BDS and MDS by virtue of the provisions made in the Act and Regulation, there was a violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 19(1)(g), 25, 26, 29(1), and 30 of the Constitution of India.
· The regulatory measures under the Act and the Regulation cannot be said to be averse to the interest of such institutions, and such reasonable measures can be carved out. Additionally, these regulatory measures do not impinge upon the rights of institutions guaranteed under Articles 14, 19(1)(g), 25 and 30 of the Constitution.
· The provisions to be reasonable conditions of recognition/ affiliation are binding for the very existence of all such institutions whether they are run by majority or minority failing which they cannot exist and impart education. The conditions are reasonable and cannot be said to be taking away any of the constitutional rights of minority institutions.
· 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 national interest. The regulatory framework created by the Act/ Dentist Act 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 of the Constitution.
· The uniform entrance examination cannot be said to be an unreasonable regulatory framework. Considering the terms and conditions for affiliation and recognition for professional medical and such other professional courses are binding, and no relaxation can be permitted in the conditions.
· The rights under Articles 19(1)(g) and 30 read with Articles 25, 26 and 29(1) of the Constitution do not come in the way of securing transparency and recognition of merits in the matter of admissions. It is open to the State to regulate the course of study, qualifications for ensuring educational standards and imposing reasonable restrictions in the national and public interest.
· Resultantly, it was held that there is no 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 by prescribing the uniform examination of NEET for admissions in the graduate and postgraduate professional courses in medical as well as dental science. The provisions of the Act and Regulation cannot be said to be ultra vires or taking away the rights guaranteed under the Constitution under Article 30(1) read with Articles 19(1)(g), 14, 25, 26 and 29(1).