Education was denied to the vast sections of the society, historically for many centuries, which have been deprived as per Vedic text prescription. But in the beginning of 20th century the need of social justice was felt imperative and to overcome the denial of education and employment in accordance to it, organizational endeavours were made. Such efforts throw some light on providing education to the so far denied sections. These measures were initiated and implemented during the British rule of the country. After attaining independence, the constitutional provisions for the cause of social justice were strengthened and its dispensation was improved; still we have to go a long way. When developments have been taking place on social justice path through reservation, the upper castes which monopolized education earlier put a lot of hurdles. The enacted legislations, government orders and formulated rules were not implemented to the fullest extent. Even in respect of explicit explanatory circulars, it was interpreted to dilute as well as to distort the dispensation of social justice. Communal representation both in education and employment in proportion to the respective population is the ultimate goal in the dispensation of social justice. It will be the true reflection of democratic principle in the governance of the state.
In respect of education front, much has to be achieved on social justice path; more so in higher education. Many hurdles are put up in the name of merit and efficiency; with the result the dispensation of social justice gets diluted: One of such hurdles is conducting Entrance Tests for admission in higher education. In respect of higher education, admissions were given to the applied candidates based on the marks secured by them in the examinations conducted to pass through the pre requisite courses. The examinations of the pre requisite courses are being conducted either by the Board, Government or University which are time tested for its validity. Once the eligibility to apply for higher education is decided based on the marks secured by the candidate in their respective courses, where is the need for conducting one more test i.e. entrance test? In respect of professional courses like medical, engineering, architecture etc., entrance tests were conducted by certain higher educational institutions. Admissions were provided solely based on the marks secured in the entrance tests. The nature and value of the marks secured by the candidate in the pre requisite course and the entrance tests are entirely different. The marker secured, pursuing the pre requisite course is a valuable one due to the hard work and sincerity shown by the taught and the teachers, whereas the value of the marks in Entrance tests is entirely dependent on the preparation by the candidates which in turn depend on many infrastructures which may not be at the reach of all the candidates. Under such circumstances enrolling admission in higher education based on the marks of the pre requisite course would be more relevant. For instance the examination questions framed on the syllabus in the pre requisite courses like Central Board of Secondary Education or State Board of Secondary Education in 12th Standard.
In respect of NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) questions are framed based on Central Board of Secondary Education syllabus. Is it equitable to the candidate who had studied in state Board of Secondary Education to appear for NEET? Even meritorious candidates of State Board syllabus might secure less marks in NEET by which the chance of the candidate to get admission in the medical course would be denied. Whether the authority of NEET can conduct the test with a bias by framing questions under one syllabus to which candidate who had studied under another syllabus to answer? In the case of availing educational opportunities, discrimination existed in the form of denial to particular sections prescribed and perpetuated by the religious dogmas. Is it in order for the state machinery to apply discrimination in some other form by conducting entrance tests resulting in the sustenance of denial of education to the already deprived sections?
Is it the social justice as envisaged in the Indian Constitution? Definitely not! It is nothing but blatant social injustice, meted out to the candidates aspiring for higher education.
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Entrance Tests conducted at the levels of state and the educational institutions are pooled at the Centre and national level entrance tests are conducted. The entrance tests in respect of medical courses assume significance due to less number of seats not proportionate to the aspiring candidates. NEET is the first entrance test conducted at all India level for medical admission. It was commenced in the academic year started in 2010 by United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre and subsequently intensified by National Democratic Alliance Government headed by Bharatiya Janata Party from 2014 onwards.
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The practice of conducting entrance tests for medical and engineering seats were started in the State of Tamil Nadu from 1984 despite stiff opposition from the organizations and political parties committed to the cause of social justice. Owing to the continuous opposition to the entrance tests and selection of candidates being contrary to the dispensation of social justice, entrance test was withdrawn in 2006. When the withdrawal was challenged in the court of law, it was held invalid due to some legal points by the High Court.
In 2007, a separate bill was passed in the State Assembly of Tamil Nadu unanimously to abolish Entrance Tests for admission to all the higher education courses for which President of India gave the assent. Entrance tests have not been in practice from then onwards in Tamil Nadu.
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When NEET was introduced at national level in 2010 for medical admission, which was applicable to all the state run medical colleges and the colleges under the regulatory control of Medical Council of India, conducting NEET was challenged in the Supreme Court by the State Government of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and many minority educational institutions for admission into which NEET was made applicable.
The Supreme Court bench comprising THREE judges delivered judgment. Two judges decided against NEET and the third judge Justice Anil R.Dave supported conducting the NEET. The verdict of majority was that the Medical Council of India has no authority to direct for NEET.
This verdict, delivered in 2013 was petitioned for review by both the Central Government and Medical Council of India. This shows the ideological commitment on the part of BJP headed Central Government against Social Justice.
The review petition was referred to FIVE judge bench which included Justice Anil R.Dave who was already in favour of the NEET. Usually it is not the convention for the same judge who was part of the earlier decision to be included in the bench formed to review the earlier verdict. The FIVE judge bench decided in favour of conducting the NEET with the utterance that “the THREE judge bench delivered judgment in a hurried manner”. Justice Anil R.Dave who was in the THREE judge bench delivered his opinion in 2013 in favour of NEET, delivered his decision in the same line in the FIVE judge bench also.
As far as Tamil Nadu was concerned, the exclusive Act to abolish Entrance Tests with the due assent of President of India is in force. The FIVE judge bench of Supreme Court gave verdict in favour of NEET which was made applicable to Tamil Nadu also.
Is it not against Social Justice and be construed as interference in the powers conferred constitutionally on the states? This it is not that the verdict of the Court is criticized but only it is put to analysis in the lines of constitutional provisions.
An ordinance was promulgated by Central Government in 2016 to exempt certain states including Tamil Nadu from conducting NEET in respect of admission to medical colleges which are under its the direct purview.
This ordinance was challenged in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court bench under the chairmanship of Justice Anil R.Dave who gave verdict already in favour of the NEET in earlier two levels was assigned to deal the challenge petition of the ordinance. Justice Nageswara Rao, another judge in the bench, has expressed his unwillingness to deal the case on the ground that he appeared earlier as advocate of State Government of Tamil Nadu arguing against Entrance Tests.
When judges who discharge their judicial responsibility with principle like Justice Nageswara Rao, how was Justice Anil R.Dave given repeated opportunities to be the part of three benches to deal with NEET when his stand on NEET is known in clear cut terms?
As per the promulgated ordinance, Tamil Nadu was exempted from NEET for the academic year 2016-17. Admissions to the medical colleges were provided based on the marks secured by the candidates in their respective pre-requisite course viz. 12th standard. The performance and pattern of the candidates who got admission based on the pre-requisite course marks reflects the dispensation of social justice in an equitable manner.
The reservation for the deprived sections is in force in Tamil Nadu; accordingly candidates were selected. In respect of open competition the total member of medical seats available at the disposal of State Government was 884. Of this, the distribution of admission to the candidates, hailing from deprived sections was thus
Backward Classes : 599, Most Backward Classes : 159, Muslims : 32, Scheduled Castes : 23, Scheduled Tribes : 1, Arundadiyar : 2, Forward Castes : 68
This distribution of admission to candidates hailing from the different categories of deprived sections, based on the marks secured by them in the pre-requisite course (12th standard) reflects the dispensation of social justice in a meaningful manner. Another pertinent feature in the selection is the majority of students who got selected hail from rural/semi urban areas and they belong to first generation-probable graduate families. Only candidates who had secured high marks comparatively got admission in open competition. Where is the question of deprivation of merit (decided based on exam marks) if reservation is followed? If educational opportunities are provided to deprived sections, they will compete with the historically privileged classes and come out with success. This is what is expected in the dispensation of social justice. Can the Central Government dare enough to publish the communal representation of candidates who were selected in the process of the NEET 2016?
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The exemption from NEET 2016 was available to a few states. However those states have to conduct NEET 2017. Opposition to NEET has gained momentum. All the organizations committed to the cause of Social Justice oppose NEET. Dravidar Kazhagam, founded by the social revolutionary Thanthai Periyar and presently led by Dr.K.Veeramani is the prime organization which has been opposing the Entrance Tests from the beginning itself in 1984. Whenever the State Government supports entrance tests, DK opposed the move and at the time of opposition to Entrance Test by the Government, DK supported the cause. DK’s role is vital in fighting for the cause of social justice by mobilizing the public to mend the attitude and the approach of the government to be supportive to social justice. To express opposition to NEET 2017, DK has started its agitation in Tamil Nadu as well as in other states in co-ordination with the various teachers’, parents’ and students’ organizations supportive to the cause. In the first phase, DK has conducted demonstrations in half of the district headquarters of the State on 30th December 2016. The next phase will be intensified further. The struggle and opposition will be continued till the abolition of NEET.
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The root cause for the initiative on the part of Central Government to insist and conduct Entrance Tests is derived from the constitutional power conferred to it by ‘education’, being in ‘Concurrent list’. This power was not original but conferred later due to amendment. When Indian Constitution was formulated, the subject of ‘Education’ was under ‘State List’ only, taking into account the pluralistic nature of the country and the educational patterns adopted by the states. Only the State Governments were empowered to do anything related to ‘education’. During the period of Emergency, the democracy of the country was in peril and the subject of ‘education’ was moved from ‘State List’ to ‘Concurrent List’ through 42nd Constitutional Amendment. Afterwards both the State and Central Governments are empowered to decide on ‘education’. Under the federal political set up both the State and Centre have to consult mutually on educational development. But in respect of Entrance Tests, especially NEET, the move of the Central Government continues to be unilateral; this sort of approach is against the Constitutional provisions.
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Because of this power, the Central Government has started to interfere in the powers of the states through another step as in the line of NEET. Yes; the Union Cabinet has been referred to conduct NEET for admission to all the engineering courses offered in the country. Instead of mitigating the menace of entrance tests and abolishing it, consistent endeavours are made to replicate it in all higher education. The ultimate solution to all these menaces lies in bringing back ‘education’ to the ‘State List’ for which the co-ordinated efforts of all the State Governments are required. In democracy, the ultimate power is vested with people. Public awareness must be converted as mass movement to accomplish this task.
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On witnessing the countrywide opposition from various regions against NEET, the Centre has come with a plan to conduct the NEET in a few regional languages including Tamil. Even if the NEET is conducted in regional languages, the candidates who had studied the 12th standard under State Board syllabus cannot perform in the NEET well since the pattern of framing the questions in NEET is under CBSE syllabus.
In the NEET, the medium of language is not the issue, but dispensation of social justice resulting in the distribution of admission to the deprived sections is important.
Over all admission to higher education must be made based on the marks secured in the pre-requisite course examinations conducted by the Government / Education Board / University which are time tested. Entrance test in any form is not to be allowed. Filtering the candidates through one more exercise of Entrance Test is against the interests of the majority, depriving them will defeat the dispensation of Social Justice.
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