The Medical Council of India (MCI) has submitted an affidavit before the Supreme Court against the postponement of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) Undergraduate (UG) 2020. The council said that the NEET 2020 exam cannot be further postponed. As per the MCI, the further postponement of the NEET entrance exam will be a "drastic deviation" from the academic schedule which "may affect the subsequent academic years" of the students.
The affidavit came in response to a plea filed by a NEET aspirant's father, who lives in a Gulf country. The father has sought that the undergraduate entrance exam to be either made online or examination centre be provided for close to 4,000 NEET candidates, residing in Gulf countries due to coronavirus pandemic.
However, the MCI has clearly stated that holding an online exam was not possible as NEET follows "paper book format" and that would compromise the "uniformity" of the examination.
In addition, MCI objected to the demand for providing exam centres in Qatar, Oman, UAE and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries for NEET candidates. The Council said, "It is imperative that the examination is conducted at the same time everywhere, which shall not be possible if the examination is conducted in outside countries due to various reasons including different time zones, logistical issues, the secrecy of test papers, etc being a booklet-based examination".
The matter is slated to come up for hearing before the apex court on August 24, headed by Justice LN Rao.
The petitioner, who is a general secretary of Kerala Muslim Culture Centre in Qatar, Abdul Azeez citied that the students stuck in Gulf won't be able to come to India to give NEET exam due to lack of flights and international travel blockade in view of coronavirus pandemic.
In response, MCI said the matter of overseas examination centres for NEET doesn't deserve the indulgence of the top court in view of the fact that the Government of India has permitted travel to and from other countries, through Vande Bharat Mission.
MCI cited logistical and operational difficulties in holding NEET exam outside India. According to the Council, conducting the undrgraduate medical entrance exam requires advance identification of exam centers, the appointment of staff and invigilators, and careful planning and execution. It added that a detailed planning will be required to transport question papers across the globe, particularly when 16 lakh students are appearing for the examination.
In a rejoinder affidavit, Azeez's lawyers have said that even if students reach India, quarantine protocols will not allow them to appear for the exam.
The petitioner has requested the SC to either grant exam centres in Gulf or waive off the mandatory quarantine protocols to enable students to appear in the examination.
The MCI statement has come amid the time when several students and parents have submitted plea asking the apex court to postpone the entrance exams in view of increasing coronavirus cases.
However, the SC has dismissed the plea saying the precious year of students "cannot be wasted" and life has to go on.
Recently, the Ministry of Education said that the JEE (Main) and the NEET will be conducted in September this year as per the schedule. The NEET exam is scheduled on September 13, and JEE-Mains will be held from September 1-6.
The ministry's National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts these exams, said over 6.4 lakh candidates have downloaded their admit cards for the engineering entrance exam, JEE-Main.
It said as far as, "NEET (UG)-2020 is concerned, again for the first time, candidates of this examination were given opportunity five times to change their choice of centre city". A total of 95,000 candidates availed the same and they have been accommodated against their revised choices, the NTA said in the statement.