Tamil Nadu

‘President withheld NEET exemption Bills in Sept. 2017’

Madras High Court   | Photo Credit: V_Ganesan

The Centre, on Tuesday informed the Madras High Court that President Ram Nath Kovind withheld his assent as early as on September 18, 2017 to the two Bills passed by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly on February 1, 2017 for obtaining exemption for the State from the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET). It also said the authenticated copies of those Bills were returned to the State government on September 22, 2017.

The submission was made in an affidavit filed in reply to a batch of four public interest litigation petitions filed in 2017 and now pending before Justices S. Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad. The petitioners sought a direction to the State government to obtain Presidential assent to the Tamil Nadu Admission to MBBS and BDS Courses Bill of 2017 and the Tamil Nadu Admission to Postgraduate Courses in Medicine and Dentistry Bill of 2017 at the earliest.

The reply affidavit sworn by Raju S. Vaidya, Deputy Secretary, Union Ministry of Home Affairs, on July 13 and served on senior counsel R. Viduthalai, representing one of the four PIL petitioners, on Tuesday stated that the two Bills were received from the State government on February 20, 2017. The Home Ministry circulated the Bills to the Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Human Resource Development on the same day.

Subsequently, the Bills along with reports from various ministries were placed for consideration of the President on September 11, 2017 in the form of a summary signed by the then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The President withheld his consent, by exercising his powers under Article 201 of the Constitution, on September 18 and therefore the Bills were returned to the State on September 22, 2017, the affidavit read.

The Centre introduced NEET, a country-wide common examination for gaining admission into medical courses, by amending the Medical Council of India Act of 1956, which was a central legislation. Since the two Bills passed by the State legislature were repugnant to the provisions of the central legislation, they required a Presidential assent, in accordance with Article 254(2) of the Constitution, before they could become a law applicable to the State.

Further, Articles 200 and 201 of the Constitution dealing with grant of assent to such Bills state that the President could either give assent to the Bill or withhold assent. In the event of the assent being withheld, the Bills would be returned to the State legislature for reconsideration. After being returned, the legislature could pass the Bills once again with or without any amendment and present them again to the President for his consideration.

‘Kept in the dark’

In so far as the 2017 Bills were concerned, the time period of six months for reconsideration had lapsed since they had been returned in September 2017. The Leader of the Opposition M.K. Stalin recently accused the government of keeping the House in the dark with respect to such a development. Members of Parliament belonging to his party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam had raised the issue in both the Houses too.

The issue received political attention after the High Court directed the Centre to spell out the date when the President had reportedly “rejected” or withheld the two Bills, earlier this month. The direction was issued after a Central government standing counsel informed the court that the President had rejected the Bills in 2017 itself and therefore nothing survived in the four PIL petitions pending in the High Court.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 7:45:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/president-withheld-neet-exemption-bills-in-sept-2017/article28494621.ece

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