Supreme Court Upholds NEET For AYUSH Admissions, Both UG And PG

Putting a stop to all doubts over NEET compulsion for AYUSH admissions, the Supreme Court has upheld the entrance test. Hence, from this academic year onwards, the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test will be mandatory to secure a seat in Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy courses.

The Supreme Court was approached to consider the validity of the notifications issued by the Central Council of Indian Medicine and Central Council of Homeopathy prescribing an all-India medical and dental entrance test NEET for admission to Under Graduate courses (BAMS, BUMS, BSMS and BHMS) and minimum qualifying marks in the said examination.
For the academic year 2018-2019, the Ministry of AYUSH had instructed all the State Governments, Union Territories and the concerned Universities to admit students in AYUSH UG courses only on the basis of merit list of the NEET in accordance with the existing rules and reservation policies of the concerned State Governments.

Thereafter, by a notification dated 07.12.2018, the Central Council introduced the Indian Medicine Central Council (Minimum Standards of Education in Indian Medicine) Amendment Regulations, 2018. The Indian Medicine Central Council (Minimum Standards of Education in Indian Medicine) Regulations, 1986 were amended by 2018 Regulations.

“Regulation 2 (d) of the 2018 Regulations provides that there shall be a uniform entrance examination NEET for all medical institutions for admission to under-graduate courses in each academic year and that the NEET examination shall be conducted by an authority designated by the Central Government.”

The minimum eligibility mark for admission to Under Graduate courses has been prescribed at 50th percentile for General category candidates and 40th percentile for Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes and Other Backward Class candidates.

Later, the Indian Medicine Central Council (Post Graduate Ayurvedic Education) Amendment Regulations, 2018 were issued making amendments to the Indian Medicine Central Council (Post Graduate Ayurvedic Education) Regulations, 2016. An all India entrance examination (AIA-PGET), on the lines of the examination prescribed for the Under Graduate courses, was introduced by the said regulations for Post Graduate courses.

The said notifications were challenged by AYUSH colleges before the Punjab and Haryana High Court and admission were granted to students in the Institutions on the basis of the interim orders of the High Court without insisting on the eligibility criterion fixed by the 2018 Regulations.
The HC had later dismissed the challenges in December 2019. The state HC had refused to grant any relief to students who had approached it against cancellation of their admission due to December 18, 2019 judgment that upheld passing of the NEET as mandatory for admissions to the BAMS, BHMS and BUMS courses. Aggrieved by the said judgment, the Colleges as well as the students filed these Special Leave Petitions before the apex court
The Central Council has also filed some SLPs, aggrieved by the interim orders passed by the High Court permitting the admission of students without insisting on the NEET eligibility in Under Graduate as well as Post Graduate courses. The point of the consideration which arose before the SC was whether the students seeking admissions to Under Graduate courses (BAMS, BUMS, BSMS and BHMS) and Post Graduate courses can be denied admission on the ground that they did not take the NEET or that they did not get the minimum percentile prescribed by the 2018 Regulations.

After noting various contentions and submissions presented before during the case, the bench of honorable Justices, L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta observed that the minimum standards cannot be lowered even for AYUSH courses.

“Doctors who are qualified in Ayurvedic, Unani and Homeopathy streams also treat patients and the lack of minimum standards of education would result in half-baked doctors being turned out of professional colleges. Non-availability of eligible candidates for admission to AYUSH Under Graduate courses cannot be a reason to lower the standards prescribed by the Central Council for admission. However, in view of admission of a large number of students to the AYUSH Under Graduate courses for the year 2019- 2020 on the strength of interim orders passed by the High Courts, we direct that the students may be permitted to continue provided that they were admitted prior to the last date of admission i.e. 15th October, 2019. The said direction is also applicable to students admitted to Post Graduate courses before 31st October, 2019.”

The bench further made it clear that this was a one-time exercise which was permitted in view of the peculiar circumstances. Therefore, that order shall not be treated as a precedent.

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