NEET-SS 2021: SC agrees to hear plea against "last-minute" changes in exam pattern

SC, Apex Court, Exam Pattern, NBE

The Supreme Court Monday agreed to hear a plea challenging the alleged “last-minute” changes made to the examination pattern for the upcoming National Eligibility cum Entrance Test – Super Specialization (NEET-SS) 2021 which is scheduled in November.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and B V Nagarathna issued notice and sought responses from the Centre, National Board of Examinations (NBE) and National Medical Commission (NMC) on the plea filed by 41 post-graduate doctors.

The apex court, which posted the matter for further hearing on September 27, also permitted the petitioners to file brief note of their written submissions.

The petitioners, who are qualified post-graduate doctors from across the country and are aspiring to become super specialists by cracking the NEET-SS 2021, have said the dates for the examination was announced on July 23 but the changed pattern was made public on August 31.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the petitioners, said the NEET-SS 2021 exams are scheduled on November 13-14 and it is fairly settled principle including in educational matter that once the calendar is announced, there is no question of then altering the scheme.

The plea, filed through advocate Javedur Rahman, has sought quashing of the scheme of NEET-SS 2021 contained in the August 31 information bulletin, as notified by the NBE and approved by the NMC, alleging it to be “illegal” having been carried out without any authority of law.

“As per the existing/earlier pattern 40 marks use to be come from the base subject and 60 marks were in respect of the two optional courses opted by the aspirant. This was very important since the candidate themselves would choose the fields of their interest and not only obtain theoretical knowledge of it but will be engaged in acquiring practical knowledge of the same,” it said.

The plea claimed that the information bulletin has “completely transformed” the entrance examination and the NBE has stated that the exam would be of the “level of exit exam of post-graduation”.

“Thus, post-graduates from different broad specialities can appear for a single super-speciality exam,” it said.

The plea said the erstwhile pattern had a paper with 60 per cent questions from critical care, that is the super-specialty subject, and 40 per cent were mixed questions from all the five broad specialties, including General Medicine and Anaesthesiology, ensuring a “level-playing field”.

“The proposed new pattern is forcing all the candidates from above-mentioned broad specialties to write a single paper which will have 100 per cent questions from General Medicine. There will be no questions from broad specialties of other four post-graduate branches. The pattern is not just a waste of time and effort for all those who have prepared for critical care but also grossly biased against few broad specialties,” it claimed.

The plea has also sought direction restoring the pattern of exam for NEET-SS 2021 and in the alternative, directing that the changes in the scheme shall not be implemented in this year exam on account of paucity of time but be implemented in 2022 and onwards.

“The petitioners were surprised to see the scheme of the NEET-SS exams in part 4, having undergone a complete change without any sort of advance intimation, with only two months left for the exam whilst the petitioners have all along been preparing in terms of the extant pattern/scheme of the exam, having absolutely no reason to think that any such drastic change will be made so close to the specified date and without the lawful authority i.e. the Central Government directing to do so,” it said.

It said the petitioners, who have had the “most challenging experiences” of their professional lives in this time being at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19, have all through this period prepared for NEET-SS 2021 exam legitimately expecting that the pattern is unchanged, just like it was in the previous three years.

“That apart, in view of such hasty and last-minute decision to change the exam pattern, the aspirants who have only recently completed the post graduation (PG) would have an edge over aspirants who have completed the PG some time back and are working in units dedicated to super speciality with the objective of acquiring fundamental and practical knowledge in the field,” the plea said.

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