NEET mandatory even for admission under NRI quota: HC

In a setback to private medical colleges, the Karnataka High Court on Thursday upheld the circular issued by the Medical Council of India (MCI), which had asked all medical colleges to fill up seats under the NRI/foreign nationals quota only from the merit list prepared on the basis of marks secured by the candidates in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), from the academic year 2016-17.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Jayant M. Patel and Justice S.N. Satyanarayana passed the order while disposing of the petitions filed by the Karnataka Professional Colleges’ Foundation, the MSR Medical College and Hospital, Bengaluru, the Manipal Academy of Higher Education Trust, and the Kasturba Medical College, Manipal and Mangaluru.

The petitioners had questioned the legality of MCI’s August 3 circular while contending that NRI/foreign national students constitute a separate and distinct class as they come from countries where content and syllabus are completely different. It would be impractical for them to come to India only for appearing in the NEET, and again come for taking admission, they argued.

The private medical colleges were allowed to admit NRI/foreign nationals up to a maximum 15 per cent of the total seats in their colleges every academic year. And till last year, there was no need for the students seeking admission under NRI/foreign national quota to appear for an entrance test.

The Bench, while referring to the Supreme Court’s May 2016 order in the Vigyan Bharati Trust case, said that passing of NEET cannot be dispensed with as MCI’s new regulation had made passing of NEET mandatory to seek admission to MBBS course. In the Vigyan Bharati Trust case, the Supreme Court had said that “it will be open to the petitioner-institute to select such NRI students who have passed NEET examination for the academic year of 2016-17”.

If the requirement of the NEET either with meeting with the eligibility criteria or for selection of student is to be diluted or to be dispensed with for 2016-17, the Bench said it is for the Supreme Court to make such changes and the High Court, “for observance of the principle of judicial discipline, would refrain from creating any situation which may result in diluting the effect of the requirement of NEET by the amendment brought about in the Regulation or even for carving out any exception for the academic year of 2016-17.” The Bench also said that the MCI’s circular cannot be termed as arbitrary.

Meanwhile, the Bench said temporary protection granted by the MCI to the admission of genuine NRI/foreign nationals made by the petitioners’ institutions till August 25, 2016, shall not be disturbed for two weeks from Thursday to enable the petitioners to approach the Supreme Court.