SC slams arbitrary change in NEET speciality syllabus

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SC slams arbitrary change in NEET speciality syllabus

Tuesday, 28 September 2021 | PNS | New Delhi

SC slams arbitrary change in NEET speciality syllabus

Authorities can’t treat doctors as footballs, tell us justification: SC

In a stinging snub to the Centre, the Supreme Court on Monday warned that it may pass strictures if it is not satisfied with justification for the last-minute changes to the NEET Super Speciality Examination 2021 syllabus. The court also asked the Centre not to treat “young doctors as football in the game of power.”

Asserting that it will not allow these young doctors to be placed in the hands of some insensitive bureaucrats, the court asked the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), National Medical Commission (NMC) and National Board of Examination (NBE) to “put their house in order”.

The court was hearing a plea from 41 postgraduate doctors who have challenged the last-minute changes made to the syllabus after the notification for examination was issued.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathna asked Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, to hold a meeting with the other two authorities within a week.

“Better come with some strong reasons, and if we are not satisfied, we will pass strictures,” it said.

“Don’t treat these young doctors as footballs in the game of power. Hold the meeting and put your house in order. We will not allow the lives of these young doctors to be placed in the hands of some insensitive bureaucrats,” it added.

In their plea, the doctors pointed out as per the prevailing pattern of examination, 60 per cent marks are given on questions from super speciality courses while 40 per cent on questions from other courses.  “But as per the notification issued on August 31 for modifying the pattern of examination, 100 per cent marks will now be given on questions from general medicines,” they said.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, who represented the doctors, said that there is urgency in the matter and they have filed a written submission also in the matter.

Advocate Gaurav Sharma, appearing for NMC, said he would like to file reply in the matter and sought adjournment of one week.

The bench asked him, “Mr Sharma, what is the NMC doing? We are dealing with the lives of young doctors who will pursue super speciality courses. You have issued the notification for examination on July 23 and then changed the syllabus on August 31. What is this? They are to sit for examinations on November 13 and 14.”

Senior advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for NBE, said  they be given time to file the reply till next Monday, as there were suitable reasons for doing the changes and authorities were well aware of the difficulties of the students and they made changes after approvals of the three authorities concerned.

The bench said, “Why the notification for examination was issued Mr Singh? Why cannot it happen next year? You see, students start preparing for these critical medicine courses months and months in advance. What was the need for last minute change?”

Singh said that change in syllabus was in the offing for quite some time and preparation was on since 2018 and the authorities concerned have tried to take care of the difficulties.

“Kindly give us one week, we will explain everything,” he said.

The bench told the senior counsel, “We are ready to hear you but tell the authorities that we are unsatisfied with the way the last minute changes were made. We are putting you on notice in advance that if we don’t agree with your justification, we will pass strictures and we will deal with you”.

 “Just because someone has the authority to wield power does not mean that he can wield power without application of mind. When you yourself issued notification for examination in July, then what was the need to rock the boat in August? Please talk to MoHFW and NMC and put your house in order,” the Court said.

Justice Chandrachud said that this examination is very important for their (doctors’) career, and merely because these doctors have already passed the MBBS exams, they (authorities) cannot change the exam pattern last minute.

Justice Nagarathna said that the pattern of study for these young doctors will depend on the pattern of questions. If you make last-minute changes, they will be ruffled”. She said the young doctors might be put at ruse due to the last-minute changes.

Justice Chandrachud said that he agrees with his sister judge and added, “We have an example of Common Law Admission Test (CLAT). I have heard that students need to study for two years to prepare for the exams. Here it takes months and months for these doctors who have to study critical medicines and to prepare for the examination and you cannot just make last-minute changes”.

When Singh said the court should hear the arguments first and then form any opinion in the matter, the bench said that it is open to the arguments but if it does not accept the submissions then the authorities concerned should also be ready to accept the strictures passed by the court.

“These people who are doctors at NMC board have passed the stage which the young doctors are in at present, but it does not mean that they will treat them like this. You better come up with strong reasons. List on Monday,” the bench said.

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