Tamil Nadu

News Analysis | Can Stalin succeed where AIADMK failed?

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin will need political backing from the Centre and judicial support, both of which may prove elusive.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The DMK regime hopes to succeed where the AIADMK failed. In getting a Bill passed to dispense with the use of the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) as the sole gateway for admission to undergraduate medical courses in Tamil Nadu, the M.K. Stalin-led government has largely gone by the content of Bills enacted by the regime of his predecessor, Edappadi K. Palaniswami, in 2017. The AIADMK regime had passed two Bills, one each for undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses, but the President withheld assent. In other words, the Centre rejected the attempt to exempt the State from the rigours of NEET.

What makes the present regime think a similar legislative effort will succeed? After all, both the 2017 and the present-day Bills provide for using the qualifying examination — the Higher Secondary exam — as the sole basis for admission, and both provide for ‘normalisation’ of marks obtained by students belonging to different Boards.

There is a slice of history that favours the DMK government. In 2005, the Jayalalithaa regime had sought to do away with the Common Entrance Test for professional courses through a government order. It was struck down by the Madras High Court. Thereafter, a Bill was passed in the State Assembly for the same purpose. The High Court struck down the law too, holding that exemption from the entrance test only for students from the State Board was invalid.

Thereafter, the DMK, which returned to power in 2006, passed a fresh law to abolish the entrance test and admit students from all streams on the basis of marks obtained in the qualifying examination. It provided for normalisation of the marks given by other Boards so that a common merit list can be prepared. Significantly, the Act received the President’s assent and came into effect on March 7, 2007. The Madras High Court upheld the Act, and the abolition became complete.

Can the DMK repeat this success by getting the President’s assent? It is an uphill task. Unlike in 2007, when the DMK was part of the UPA regime at the Centre, it has no leverage with the Union government now. Further, the Modi government appears to be in no mood to grant exemption from NEET to any one State. In any case, it has to explain the exemption to the Supreme Court, which has taken a rigid position that only NEET can ensure standards in medical education.

The only new element in the 2021 Bill is that it draws inspiration from the report of the Justice A.K. Rajan Committee on the socio-economic impact of NEET on students from poor and rural households. Much of its reasoning is found in the preamble to the Bill and in its Statement of Objects and Reasons: that NEET is not an equitable mode of admission, that it favours the elite and the rich, and that its continuance would adversely affect the State’s healthcare system due to inadequate number of willing doctors for its rural areas, with the poor being unable to join the courses.

While these may be persuasive points to argue the case against NEET, they may not make much legal difference when it comes to the President ratifying a law that conflicts with the medical admission system and is contrary to the Supreme Court’s position on NEET. Mr. Stalin needs two things that may prove elusive: political backing from the Centre and judicial support.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 8:55:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/can-stalin-succeed-where-aiadmk-failed/article36444102.ece

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