NEET 2018: Supreme Court stays Madras HC order on reallotment of exam centres

Somesh S Menon | May 4, 2018 - 8:07 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI, May 4: The Supreme Court has stayed a Madras High Court verdict which had directed the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to reallot the NEET 2018 exam centres for all the aspirants from Tamil Nadu who had been allotted exam centres located outside their state.

The stay order, passed on May 3, 2018, by a three member SC Bench led by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, means that aspirants from Tamil Nadu who were allotted exam centres in distant locations in Kerala and Rajasthan will now have to appear for NEET in these centres only. With the exam scheduled for May 6, barely two days remain for aspirants and their parents to make preparations to reach their allotted exam centres in time and make the necessary arrangements to appear.

Case Background

On April 27, 2018, the Madras High Court had taken into consideration the concerns of candidates from Tamil Nadu who despite choosing exam centres located close to their place of residence were allotted NEET 2018 centres in faraway locations. Advocate S. Kalimuthu Mylavan had filed the case before the Madras High Court demanding that the CBSE “re-allot the examination centres for the Tamil Nadu NEET candidates within the NEET examination centres nearest to their residence situated within the State of Tamil Nadu”. After downloading their NEET Admit Cards, released by the CBSE on April 17, the candidates “were shocked to note that the examination centres...were allotted in other states and not as per their choice of the examination centre, situated within the state of residence as mentioned in their applications.”

As per the advocate, all the affected candidates were residing in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu, namely Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Nagercoil and Trichy. Despite there being 10 NEET centres in Tamil Nadu - Chennai, Coimbatore, Kancheepuram, Madurai, Namakkal, Salem, Thiruvallur, Tiruchirappalli, Tirunelveli and Vellore – with each having the capacity to accomodate these candidates, they had inexplicably been allotted centres in Kerala and Rajasthan states.

The two member High Court Bench comprising Justices Huluvadi G Ramesh and M Dhandapani had taken a sympathetic view of the challenge that would be faced by these candidates and directed the CBSE to “allot examination centres for those candidates, to write their examinations nearby to their place of residence, or the adjacent Districts or at least within the State of Tamil Nadu, at the earliest”.

CBSE's contention

Throughout its arguments, the Board had stressed upon the fact that the exam centres couldn’t be changed at any cost since the allotments were made via computer and did not involve any human intervention. The Board also stated that it was too late to change the exam centres for such a small number of candidates given that “all the preparations to conduct the examination have been completed, centre material has been sent to the examination centres, roll numbers have been generated and issued and all the officials and observers have been issued the duty places and all preparations for performing the journey have been completed”.

Repurcussions of the SC stay order

Thanks to the CBSE’s persistence in ensuring that the exam centres for any candidates would not be changed at any cost, all aspirants who were heaving a sigh of relief thanks to the Madras High Court order have now been left in the lurch.

Through the stay order, the Supreme Court has demonstrated its agreement with the CBSE’s assertion that “under no circumstances the choice of centre/cities filled in the application form by the candidates and the allotted centre shall be changed by the Board”. The minor point of relief for future NEET aspirants is that the Court instructed the Board to ensure the same goof-up does not take place next year.

The expectations of this year’s candidates hoping to appear for NEET closer to their places of residence however now stand dashed at the last-minute. Unsurprisingly, students, parents and even politicians have been voicing their protests as per media reports.

Despite the bizarre and unreliable claims of the TN School Education Minister KA Sengottaiyan that “only CBSE students were allotted centres outside the state” and that "the government will ensure that students of government or government-aided schools will get centres in the State itself," the affected candidates have accepted that the challenge to clear the national level medical entrance exam has only become harder with the Supreme Court order.

NEET 2018 will be conducted by the CBSE on May 6, 2018, across 2000 exam centres spread across 150 cities in the country. Given the CBSE’s previous guidelines on candidates only being allowed appear for the exam in vernacular languages in centres which are located in their respective home states, it remains to be seen how the Board will make arrangements for the NEET paper to be provided in Tamil to those candidates who had opted for the same but are now appearing for the exam in Kerala and Rajasthan.

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