In the Supreme Court of India
|NAME OF THE CASE||Christian Medical College Vellore Association v. Union of India & Ors.|
|CITATION||(CIVIL) NO.98 OF 2012|
|DATE OF THE CASE||29 April, 2020|
|APPELANT||Christian Medical College Vellore Association|
|RESPONDENT||Union of India & Ors.|
|BENCH/ JUDGES||Hon’ble Justice Arun Mishra, Hon’ble Justice Vineet Saran and Hon’ble Justice MR Shah|
|STATUTES/ CONSTITUTION INVOLVED||Constitution of India, 1950|
|IMPORTANT SECTIONS/ ARTICLES||Constitution of India, 1950 – Article 19(1)(g), 25, 26, 29(1) and 30|
The Supreme Court in present case, maintained the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for graduation and post-graduate programmes in this big decision. The appeal in this case concerned four notices issued by the Medical Council of India (MCI) as well as the Dental Council of India (DCI). The MCI announced two announcements under the competence given on it by Indian Medical Council Act, 1956. The rest two notifications were issued by DCI which was provided for procedure to select the candidates for the MBBS course as well as for BDS and MDS. The Supreme Court declared that the NEET shall apply to private unregulated minority professional organizations for entrance into MBBS, MD, BDS, and MDS degrees, which is a significant decision. It was also decided that the terms of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, and its regulations are not excess vires and do not restrict the rights granted by the Indian Constitution.
The National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET), originally the All-India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT), is the aptitude test for Indian dental and medical institutions for MBBS and BDS courses. The National Testing Agency (NTA) is in full control of conducting it. At the day of the NEET-undergraduate (NEET-UG) exam counselling round, the candidate must present their passing certificate. NTA also organizes NEET post-graduation (NEET-PG), an enrolment exam mandated as the sole admission test for admission to several MD/MS and PG diploma degrees, in addition to undergraduate programs. Every year, the examination, which provides 90,000 seats in India’s MBBS and BDS colleges, is held. Qualifying for the NEET Exam is a mandatory condition for studying medical degrees in India and abroad, according to the Indian government.
The Medical Council of India (MCI) is body tasked with ensuring that high levels of medical training and certification of medical degrees are maintained in India. The Medical Council of India was a statutory body responsible for ensuring consistent and quality expectations of medical education in the country until it was succeeded by the National Medical Commission on September 25, 2020 according to NIYTI aayog’s recommendation.
The Dental Council of India (DCI) is an institution established underneath a Parliamentary act, The Dentists Act, 1948 (XVI of 1948), to govern dental academic achievement and the career of dentistry in India. It is sponsored via Grant-in-aid by the Government of India through the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (Ministry of Health). The Dental Council of India’s General Body, which includes representatives from several state and local governments, institutions, dental institutions, and the central government, among others.
FACTS OF THE CASE
The factual matrix, in this case, is that the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Dental Council of India (DCI) released four notices that were challenged. The MCI used the authority granted to it by the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 to make two announcements. The notices called for changes to the Graduate Medical Education Regulations of 1997 and the Post Graduate Medical Education Regulations of 2000. 
Clause 5 of Chapter II of the Regulations on Graduate Medical Education, 1997, was amended. ‘Procedure for selection to MBBS Course’ was included in Clause 5. Clause5 mandated the establishment of a single suitability cum-entrance assessment, termed the ‘National Eligibility cum Entrance Test’ for admissions to MBBS degree in each scholastic year.
The Regulations were issued that will further revise the Post Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 2000, that will provide for the Method for Selecting Candidates for Postgraduate Courses within Clause 9 under the subject of ‘Selection of Postgraduate Students.’ It stated that “each scholastic year, a uniform qualifying cum-entrance assessment, namely, National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for enrolment to Postgraduate Medical Courses will be conducted.”
And the last two notices were issued by DCI, and they detailed the method for selecting candidates for the MBBS, BDS, and MDS programmes. As a result, a test known as the ‘National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET)’ was created to choose applicants for MBBS, Postgraduate Courses, BDS, and MDS programmes. Amendments to the principal Acts were adopted in response to these restrictions, and presently Section 10 D of both the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and the Dentists Act, 1949 call for a uniform admissions test, NEET, to select candidates for the above-mentioned courses.
Ultimately, a Bench of three judges examined the cases filed in 2012-2013, and the cases were settled by decision and order dated July 18, 2013. The petitions were granted by the majority opinion. The NEET notifications given by MCI and DCI have been quashed. However, the admission that had already been made were unaffected. On 11.4.2016, review applications were filed, which were heard and eventually granted, and the 18.7.2013 judgement was recalled.
The constitutionality of the alterations to Section 10 D were contested by a group of petitioners, the principal appellant being Christian Medical College, Vellore. The modification, according to the petitioner, violated the rights of private unassisted educational facilities and minority institutes by imposing NEET on them. These colleges and universities already have an admissions test and a shortlisting process in place. It was also stated that unaided minority medical institutes have the right to run their own examinations for selecting candidates. The state’s power was also questioned, with the claim that it appeared to violate Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, as well as religious and linguistic minorities’ rights to create and govern educational institutions of their choosing, as provided by Article 30 of the Constitution.
As a result, the current case, as well as others related to it, was filed with the Supreme Court for review.
ISSUE RAISED BEFORE THE COURT
Only issue before the court in this matter is –
Whether the implementation of NEET as an uniform qualifying cum admission test for the courses of MBBS, PG, BDS, and MDS is a violation of the Constitutional Fundamental Rights embodied in Articles 19(1)(g), 25, 26, 29(1), and 30?
ARGUMENTS FROM APPELANT SIDE
- The appellants argued that the Violative Notifications infringed on an unassisted minority organisation’s fundamental right to “establish and administer academic institutions of their choice” as guaranteed by Article 30 interpret with Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution, which gives the right to accept students in one’s own decision.
- On behalf of the applicant, was further argued that the government has no authority to force an independent minority institute to gain admission through a single system assessment such as NEET. Unassisted minority profession institutions have the fundamental right to choose technique and manner in which they accept their students, as long as they meet the triple test of fairness, transparency, and non-exploitation.
- Ultimately, it was argued that, whereas the Government can set the threshold criterion for merits while establishing acceptable limits, it cannot prohibit the appellant from possessing any extra merit factors above the State-set threshold. As a result, such a restriction fails the proportionality test.
ARGUMENTS FROM RESPONDENT SIDE
- They argued that the Act was amended to include Section 10D, which mandates that the authorized entity conduct a consistent common admission. As a result, the implementation of NEET is constitutionally sound.
- Secondly, contested Notices, as well as the amendments to Section 10D as presented in the Act or Regulations as revised by the MCI, and relevant laws placed in the Dentist Act, could not be said to be attempting to take away rights of unassisted minority universities or institutes to make admission in any way, as it is acceptable to provide regulatory systems at the government level.
- Lastly it was urged that it is impossible to prevent the government or state from enacting restrictions which are in the country’s interest.
Constitution of India, 1950 –
- Article 19(1)(g) – to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. 
- Article 25 – (1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.
(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law— (a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice; (b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.
- Article 26 – Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right—
(a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;
(b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion; Freedom to manage religious affairs. Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour. Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc
(c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and
(d) to administer such property in accordance with law.
- Article 29(1) – Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.
- Article 30 – (1) All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
(1A) In making any law providing for the compulsory acquisition of any property of an educational institution established and administered by a minority, referred to in clause (1), the State shall ensure that the amount fixed by or determined under such law for the acquisition of such property is such as would not restrict or abrogate the right guaranteed under that clause.
(2) The State shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.
While dismissing the appeal, the Supreme Court stated: The governmental regulations under the Act and Regulation cannot be deemed to be contradictory to the interests of such institutes, and such appropriate precautions can be carved out. Furthermore, these legal provisions do not infringe on the constitutional rights of institutions granted in Articles 14, 19(1)(g), 25, and 30.
The regulations defining appropriate requirements of recognition/affiliation are mandatory for all such institutes, whether mainstream or minority-run, to operate and provide education. The terms are reasonable, and they do not restrict any of the constitutional protections of minority entities.
They said that Our Constitution limits the state’s capacity to infringe with people’s lives, liberty, and rights; but, the idea of limited government cannot be pushed to the point where it harms the national interest. The Medical Act or Dentist Act creates a regulatory framework that includes conditions, association, and certification, and offering a unified exam in the form of NEET cannot be considered a violation of Articles 19(1)(g) and 30 of the Constitution. The unified admission examination cannot be described as a regulation that is irrational. Because the rules and conditions for affiliation and certification of professional medical and other professional courses are legally enforceable, no exceptions can be made.
According to petitioners, changing the admissions system will lower the level and set of criteria that they have maintained in public institutions, which is not in the public interest. In response, the Bench cited a judgement by an 11-judge panel in T.M.A Pai Foundation and Others v. State of Karnataka and Others (2002). The court concluded, based on the above case, that the Fundamental Right guaranteed by Article 30 cannot be applied in such a way as to jeopardise the national interest. The right cannot be invoked to prevent the government from enacting restrictions in this regard.
The honourable supreme court likewise concluded that section 19 (1) (g) imposes legitimate limits exclusively on students. Madarasa Hanfia Arabic College, Jamalia and Ors. v. Bihar State Madarasa Education Board, Patna Minorities have the right to set up and run academic institutions of their own choosing, according to the Court. They nevertheless have no right to mismanage, and the state has the authority to control the administration and management of such institutes in the interests of educational needs and institutional discipline. In this case, the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion.
Articles 19(1)(g) and 30 of the Constitution, along with Articles 25, 26, and 29(1), do not limit the scope of ensuring clarity and merits assessment in admissions. In the state and public’s best interest, the government has the power to supervise the degree course and certifications in order to ensure standards of education and impose acceptable limits. Article 30(1) read with Articles 19(1)(g), 14, 25, 26, and 29 of the Constitution protect rights, and the provisions of the Act and Regulation cannot be alleged to be extra vires or to deprive such rights (1). The petition was thus rejected.
In my Opinion this case Supreme had done balancing the rights is a constitutional provision that serves the state and even greater public interest. The principle of limited governance cannot be claimed to be exceeded by regulatory changes. Article 30 of the Constitution grants the power to administer an institution, but it is subject to laws and other legal rules.
I think this judgement clarifies the ambiguities that had arisen on the aforementioned issue, stating that Article 19(1)(g) rights are not absolute and are subject to certain conditions in the concern of the student population in order to encourage merit, appreciation of excellence, and the prevention of misconducts.
I believe that this will have a significant influence in the sense that students will have more possibilities as more seats become available. It will also guarantee that the minority-run institution does not defy government decisions and that minority are given a limited level of restraint in how they use it.
 See the Constitution of India, 1950, Article 19(1)(g) https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/coi-4March2016.pdf
 See the Constitution of India, 1950, Article 25, https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/coi-4March2016.pdf
 See the Constitution of India, 1950, Article 26, https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/coi-4March2016.pdf
 See the Constitution of India, 1950, Article 29(1) https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/coi-4March2016.pdf
 See the Constitution of India, 1950, Article 30 https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/coi-4March2016.pdf