No NEET exam abroad, but students allowed to come by flight: SC

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to pass a direction to Centre to hold National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) Undergraduate (UG) 2020 at examination centres in Gulf countries, but asked Centre to consider allowing students to come via “Vande Bharat Mission” flights to appear for the exam scheduled on September 13.

As regards the mandatory 14-day quarantine, the Court said there can be no relaxation as it involves public safety, but gave the petitioner liberty to approach the concerned state authorities to seek relaxation.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao said this while hearing a petition filed by one Abdul Azeez, a social worker situated in Middle East who was pursuing the interest of NEET students. The petitioner claimed that close 4000 students in the Gulf region are taking NEET but were unable to travel to India due to ban on international flights.

Azeez wanted the undergraduate MBBS entrance examination to be either made online or in the alternate, demanded examination centre in Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

Both the National Testing Authority (NTA) and Medical Council of India (MCI) had opposed the request by the petitioner. Earlier on Saturday, the MCI filed an affidavit in Supreme Court informing that there cannot be examination centres outside India as this will compromise the uniformity of NEET, and will affect secrecy of question papers besides posing risk of leakage of questions.

The Court agreed that time was too short to extend any benefit for the students stuck in Gulf. However, for the coming years the bench, also comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhatt asked MCI counsel Gaurav Sharma to consider conducting the test online.

“There are a number of students appearing in NEET from the Gulf, Singapore and Malaysia. Why can’t you (MCI) think of having NEET online? This will avoid trouble for so many people studying abroad, especially when the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for engineering courses is being conducted online,” the bench said. The Court refused to issue an order to this effect.

The MCI in its affidavit had said that holding an online examination is out of question as NEET follows a “paper-book format” and it will compromise the “uniformity” of examination. It also objected to the demand for NEET examination centres in Qatar and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries for NEET candidates stuck there. The affidavit said, “….in order to fairly conduct an examination like NEET, which has to be a uniform examination, it is imperative that the examination is conducted at the same time everywhere, which shall not be possible, if examination is conducted in outside countries due to various reasons including different time zones, logistical issues, secrecy of test papers, etc being a booklet-based examination.”

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