"The High Court building is a heritage property which the State Government has to maintain without any major changes. "
"The High Court building is a heritage property which the State Government has to maintain without any major changes. "

What you need to know about tomorrow’s NEET hearing in the Bombay High Court

Nitish Kashyap

The National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) has generated litigation over multiple forums, including the Bombay High Court. And tomorrow, the Bombay High Court’s Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and MS Sonak J will resume hearing petitions challenging the rules [pdf] regarding college admissions in Maharashtra.

Introduced in August this year, these rules include a highly contentious domicile clause which, along with the state government’s Central Admission Process (CAP), lies at the heart of the matter.

Appearing for one of the petitioners (college) tomorrow is senior counsel Vineet Naik. Naik says that the state government’s rules have placed private colleges at a great disadvantage.

“In the 30% quota available to the state government in private colleges, they are saying the students must have a domicile of Maharashtra.

For the balance 70% they say that you must have passed HSC and SSC from any of the regions. Region has been defined as Vidarbha, Marathwada and the rest of Maharashtra.

The only exception is for state government employees whose parents have been transferred. So even if they have completed their HSC outside the state, they are still entitled to it. By doing all this the state is taking away (private colleges’) right to admit students on the basis of NEET.

Now look at the precarious situation here, in view of the Modern Dental College judgement of the apex court, they have said that you must follow NEET not CET. Now the basis on which you are admitting students which is NEET, you are actually not following (NEET) because of this domicile criteria that you have brought in.

Naik also said that these rules were not notified before the state’s CET application procedure began, hence the domicile rule was not a part of the eligibility criteria, and came about after the application process was over. This placed students from outside the state in a fix.

During last week’s hearing Chief Justice Manjula Chellur enquired whether the rules laid down by the state government were in contravention of the 2016 ordinance. To which, VM Thorat, appearing for the petitioners, answered in the affirmative.

Promulgated on May 24 this year, the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Ordinance of 2016 [pdf] allowed State governments to effectively opt out of NEET 2016. Predictably, this Ordinance was challenged in the Supreme Court. The apex court while observing that the validity of the ordinance was “doubtful”, refused to pass any directions apart from expediting the hearing.

Now whether the right of private colleges to admit students includes the right to conduct their own admission process is what the court has to decide. Once this is done, the scope of the domicile criteria will automatically become clear. In the meantime, the state government has been directed to prepare two merit lists; an all-India merit list, and a Maharashtra domicile student list. The final list would only be released to the public once the petition is decided.

The arguments will now resume tomorrow in the Chief’s court.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news