A car ride on the Chennai-Madurai national highway is smooth and quick unless the toll booths malfunction or there are speed breakers or purposeful barricades. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) ensures that malfunctions or service deficiency is kept under control by effectively monitoring the implementing agencies. The barricades/speed breakers are need-based creations of local authorities with the approval of competent authority.
Shift the transportation highway scene to another traffic-infested professional college admission highway scene. The NHAI job is supposed to be done by statutory bodies like the Medical Council of India, University Grants Commission, All India Council for Technical Education, etc. These statutory bodies are also responsible for easing student traffic during professional college admission season by monitoring the admission practices. The speed check is done by the Supreme Court or various high courts either suo motu or during the course of normal litigations. The long and deafening silence of statutory bodies to the capitation fee menace and the manner in which the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) has settled to its latest status quo (I write this article when the Ordinance has been signed by the President of India) raises more questions searching for answers. Is there a non-confrontational approach to ensure that students enjoy a pleasurable ride on the admissions highway that satisfies the triple test laid down by the Supreme Court in P A Inamdar (2005) to ensure admission is fair, transparent and non-exploitative? Yes is my simple answer.
NEET was struck down in 2013 by the Supreme Court as it found that it was a subordinate legislation denuding the power of state legislatures and also ultra vires the provisions of Articles 19(1)(g) and 29(1) and 30(1) of the Constitution. The 2013 view of the court on rights of private and minority institutions is not entirely correct as using scores of a particular competitive exam does not directly affect their rights to admit. But the manner in which NEET was pushed in 2016 by the bench headed by Justice Anil Dave and halted by an Ordinance of the Central government is an issue that needs deep analysis for calibrated implementation for larger purposes in future. The Ordinance has deferred NEET by a year and the limited time available for those appearing for NEET 2017 needs to be judiciously rationed before a proper roadmap is laid for the years to come.
The current national discourse and debate is on NEET, which concerns medical college admissions. The lessons learnt till now will come handy to avoid the costly consequences of an unpredictable NEET 2016 in the case of engineering college admission, which is equally concerning as the capitation fee menace in engineering college admission system is a volume game unlike medical which is a margin game. One of the contentious issues in NEET was a delegated legislation’s overriding power resulting in an avoidable friction. Moving forward in the era of cooperative federalism, especially in the area of education, which is in the concurrent list, the Union government and its statutory authorities need to actively engage with all states in ensuring a mutually accepted competitive exam-based admission system in engineering colleges. One such system is a national JEE for admissions to deemed universities and state JEEs conducted by state governments for admission to engineering colleges affiliated to state universities with a fine mix of Class XII marks in both the cases, with each institution mandated to admit students using applicable test scores only. This shall ensure a fair, transparent and non-exploitative admission system ushering a ‘Need Not Worry Syndrome’ in professional college admissions. firstname.lastname@example.org
The writer is Dean, Planning & Development, SASTRA University