NEET: The apex medical regulator in India, NMC has recently confirmed before the Supreme Court that there is no age cap for appearing for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, the centralized entrance examination for admission to medical courses.
Such information submitted before the court by Senior Advocate, Mr. Vikas Singh, the counsel appearing for the National Medical Commission (NMC). Taking note of the same, the top court bench comprising of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai dismissed the Special Leave Petition challenging an earlier order of the Delhi HC upholding the age bar.
“The issue that arises in these SLPs relate to the upper age limit for candidates appearing in NEET-UG. In view of the decision taken by the NMC in its meeting, it does not insist on any upper age limit for candidates appearing in NEET-UG. The lis in these cases does not survive. The SLPs disposed of,” the bench noted on Tuesday.
Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that introducing a major change in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test Undergraduate (NEET-UG) examination, the National Medical Commission (NMC) recently decided to remove the upper age-bar for appearing in the entrance test.
This decision taken in the 4th NMC meeting held on 21st Oct, 2021 and NMC, the apex medical regulator, informed this decision to the National Testing Agency (NTA).
In a letter directed to the Senior Director of NTA, Dr. Devvrat, the secretary to NMC, Dr. Pulkesh Kumar referred to the NTA’s email dated 3rd March, 2022 seeking comments on the Draft Information Bulletin of National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test for admission to Undergraduate Course (NEET (UG) – 2022).
Communicating the decision regarding the upper-age bar in NEET, the letter further mentioned, “I would like to inform that it has decided in the 4th NMC meeting held on 21st Oct, 2021 that there should not be any fixed upper age limit for appearing in the NEET-UG examination. Therefore, the information bulletin may modified accordingly. Further, the process for official notification to suitably amend the Regulations on Graduate Medical Education, 1997 to this effect has been initiated.”
“Thus issued with the approval of the Chairperson, NMC,” further read the letter.
The debate concerning the upper age limit for the MBBS entrance examination had been in place since CBSE had implemented it back in 2017. Issuing a notification in this regard, CBSE had mentioned, “The upper age limit for NEET-UG is 25 years as on the date of examination with relaxation of 5 years for the candidates belonging to SC/ST/OBC category.”
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At that time, CBSE had also limited the number of attempts for appearing in the examination to three for all the candidates. However, the age limit had questioned several times before the High Courts and the Supreme Court. In an interim order, the Supreme Court made all the candidates eligible for NEET without any age bar for appearing in the examinations.
As per the latest media report by Live Law, while considering a plea challenging the Delhi High Court’s decision of upholding the upper age limit in NEET, the Supreme Court had earlier asked the NMC to inform they were considering to remove the upper age bar.
Recently, Senior Advocate Mr. Vikas Singh, appearing on behalf of the Apex Medical Regulator informed the top court bench about its decision of removing the upper age cap.
Taking note of the same, the top court bench quoted noting by Live Law, “The issue that arises in these SLPs relate to the upper age limit for candidates appearing in NEET-UG. In view of the decision taken by the NMC in its meeting, it does not insist on any upper age limit for candidates appearing in NEET-UG. The list in these cases does not survive. The SLPs disposed of.”
It should be mentioned in this context that previously, during the course of hearing, the erstwhile Medical Council of India (MCI), which has now been replaced by NMC, had justified its decision of capping of upper age limit for NEET- at 25 years by pointing out that ‘sharp young minds’ required to study medicine.
However, last year, the UG Medical Education Board of NMC was considering the possibility of removing the upper age cap in NEET entrance. Such considerations had made while keeping in mind the problems of the students belonging to the lower-income families, and the exodus of MBBS aspirants to foreign countries.
In the paper titled “Seeking graduation in medical colleges outside India: Is it a ‘win-win situation’ or ‘lose-lose situation’ for the stakeholders and the nation?” the UGMEB officials had hinted at the possibility of removing the upper age bar for MBBS admission.
UGMEB had opined that with the age bar gone, students keen on pursuing medical graduation can continue appearing on NEET for as many attempts as they wish, even after they get admitted to other courses.
While dismissing the special leave petition, the top court bench also considered several issues including the eligibility condition of candidates who passed their 10+2 exam from open school, and those who did not study Biology in their 10+2. Senior Advocate Aman Sinha appeared as the Amicus Curiae to assist the court for deciding these matters.
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