Two petitions requesting a delay of the postgraduate medical entrance test were being considered by the apex court. The petitioners argued that they did not have sufficient time to prepare for the exam and that counselling had to be postponed until after August 11 because the cut-off date for internship had been extended.
Additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati, representing the National Board of Examinations, informed Justices S R Bhat and Dipankar Datta that admit cards for the exam were issued on schedule on Monday, and counselling could begin on July 15th.
She informed the bench that the exam date had been announced in September of the previous year. “There is currently no available date in the near future for our technology partner to conduct the exam,” she stated.
Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, representing the petitioners, suggested that the examination could be postponed for a few weeks and questioned the benefits of rushing the exam if counselling has to be held after August 11. Bhati countered that administrative preparations have been made for the planned exam.
During the hearing, Senior advocate Vivek Tankha, who was also representing the petitioners, emphasized the importance of the subject and the college for each candidate. The bench observed that there is nothing to prevent someone who has not succeeded in the exam from trying again.
Tankha argued that the situation has become critical due to the NEET, as previously each state had its own exam for medical admission. The bench acknowledged that this is a part of the evolutionary process, and sometimes it is right and sometimes wrong.
The bench concluded by stating that they are not considering the petitions. It was mentioned during the hearing on February 24 that around 2.09 lakh candidates have registered for the NEET-PG exam 2023, and if it is postponed, no alternative date for conducting it may be available in the near future, as informed by the NBE to the apex court.
On February 10, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya informed Lok Sabha that the NEET-PG examination would be held on March 5 for those seeking admission to postgraduate medical courses. He also mentioned that the Ministry has extended the cut-off date for completing the mandatory one-year internship for all MBBS students yet to finish it, from June 30 to August 11, to ensure no candidate is left behind. During the hearing of the petitions last week, the apex court commented that waiting for the exam is causing mental anguish for the candidates.
The bench had expressed their concern that postponing a judicial exam could cause agony for the candidates who are preparing for it and that the whole dynamics would change.
Sankaranarayanan had countered by arguing that the students are working 12-hour internships every day, leaving them with inadequate time to prepare for the examination.
The petitioners also contended that the issue arose because different states have varying schedules for internships. Through their counsel, Tanvi Dubey, the petitioners raised the issue of the NBE modifying the eligibility criteria twice and claimed that this reflected an oversight and mismanagement on the NBE’s part by not consulting the state medical bodies in advance, thereby not giving enough time for the candidates to prepare.