Tamil Nadu

Anti-NEET Bill: Tamil Nadu Health Minister shares responses to queries

Ma. Subramanian.

Ma. Subramanian.

The Tamil Nadu government has prepared a six-point response to the queries raised by the Union government on the anti-NEET Bill, passed by the State legislature.

The Bill was passed unanimously on September 13, 2021. Since it was returned by the Governor, the legislature passed the Bill again on February 8 this year. The Union Home Ministry sent the Bill to the Health Ministry and the AYUSH Ministry for its response, which, in turn, had raised a set of queries. The queries were forwarded by the Governor’s office on July 5.

On Friday, the Health Minister Ma. Subramanian shared the State’s responses to the queries and said that they would be sent to the Governor, after perusal by the State’s legal experts. “We will emphasise that the Governor forward it to the [next] President for assent. She hails from a marginalised community, we are sure she will concur with our reasoning,” he said.

The Union government had placed six queries, including whether the Bill would undermine the nation’s unity, diversity and sovereignty. To a query on whether the State legislature had the right to pass the Bill, which was over and above the existing Acts of the National Medical Commission, the Indian Medical Council Act and the National Commission for Homoeopathy Act, the State government cited the State’s rights under schedule 7 of list III (25) – Concurrent list, which grants it permission to create laws. The Supreme Court had upheld the right in a verdict, delivered in the Tamil Nadu Medical Officers’ Association (TNMOA) versus the Union of India and others in 2021, Mr. Subramanian said. The State also pointed to a verdict in the Preethi Srivatsava and others versus the State of Madhya Pradesh and others in 1999, where the Supreme Court had explained the admission procedures clearly.

Responding to a query on the State’s eligibility to create laws, it cited the Supreme Court verdict in 2021 in the TNMOA case, which stated that the Union government’s rules cannot restrict the State’s rights to admit students in educational institutions by enacting its own laws. It also cited another verdict pertaining to the Hoechst Pharmaceuticals Ltd versus State of Bihar and others, 1983, permitting the State government to seek assent for its legislation from the President.

On the argument that NEET ensures eligibility and is a historic reform that enables quality medical education and transparency in student admission, freeing students from the burden of having to take several exams, the State said its Bill approved of only the Class XII exams conducted by the School Education Departments in various States, or the CBSE or any other competent authority. The Bill also clearly explained the appropriate procedures to streamline and equalise the candidates’ eligibility across examinations conducted for Class XII. It clearly presented eligibility criteria for UG medical admission to government quota seats. “This will reduce the chances of students having to take many entrance tests and be economically burdened or psychologically affected. Hence NEET is against rural and poor children. This is the State’s opinion,” the Minister said.

Stating that the Bill being detrimental to the unity, sovereignty and integrity of the nation is unacceptable, the State rejected the objection that the Bill superseded the rights enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution, he added. “The recommendation made in the Bill for admission is better than any other method, and ensures fairness and equality. We reject that it goes against the rights enshrined in Article 14,” the Minister said.

‘NEP unacceptable’

To the statement that the Bill was contradictory to the National Education Policy (NEP), the State government has said that the NEP 2020 was totally unacceptable.

“The NEP is against the nation’s diversity. The courts have held that federalism is part of the government’s basic infrastructure. In its 1994 verdict in the S.R. Bommai versus Union of India, the Supreme Court clarified that federalism and nation’s diversity formed the basic democratic character of the country.

As the NEP cannot be a guiding factor for the State legislature, the State has full liberty to create laws. Also in the Modern Dental and Research versus State of Madhya Pradesh 2016, the Supreme Court has delineated its opinion. Hence this Bill will give equal and fair opportunities to rural students,” he said. Since the Bill will pave the way for quality education and equal opportunity to rural students in undergraduate medical education in government quota seats, the Union government should forward it to the President for assent, he said.

“Since these arguments are acceptable, we expect the President, who hails from a marginalised community, to concur with our views,” Mr. Subramanian added.

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Printable version | Jul 23, 2022 11:53:57 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/anti-neet-bill-tamil-nadu-health-minister-shares-responses-to-queries/article65671735.ece