NEET 2020: There cannot be exam centres outside India, MCI tells SC


The Medical Council of India (MCI) in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court informed that there cannot be examination centres outside India for holding the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) scheduled for September 13.

The affidavit came in response to a petition filed by a NEET aspirant’s father situated in Middle East who has sought the undergraduate MBBS entrance examination to be either made online or an examination centre be provided for close to 4000 NEET candidates stuck in the Gulf countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The petition is listed before a bench headed by Justice LN Rao on Monday.

The MCI in its affidavit filed through advocate Gaurav Sharma said that holding an online examination is out of question as NEET follows a “paper-book format” and it will compromise the “uniformity” of examination. This is unlike the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for engineering courses which is scheduled to be held both online and offline from September 1-6 in India and nine centres outside India, with six of them situated in the Middle East.

The MCI even objected to the demand for NEET examination centres in Qatar and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries for NEET candidates stuck there. The affidavit said, “….in order to fairly conduct an examination like NEET, which has to be a uniform examination, it is imperative that the examination is conducted at the same time everywhere, which shall not be possible, if examination is conducted in outside countries due to various reasons including different time zones, logistical issues, secrecy of test papers, etc being a booklet-based examination.”

The petitioner Abdul Azeez has cited the lack of flights and an international travel blockade announced by Indian government in view of COVID-19 pandemic. In response, the MCI said, “The Government of India has permitted travel to and from other countries, through “Vande Bharat Mission”. It is submitted that Indian Government, under the said mission, permitted Indian citizens, including Overseas Citizens of India, to come to India by special flights.”

The MCI cited logistical and operational difficulties in holding examination outside India. To hold NEET in India is a year-long exercise which requires advance identification of exam centers, appointment of staff and invigilators and careful planning and execution. The Centre will have no control over examination centres abroad and detailed planning will be required to transport question papers across the globe, particularly when 16 lakh students are appearing for the examination, the MCI stated.

The possibility of leakage of question papers cannot be ruled out if examination is to happen simultaneously in several countries at different time zones. Even the provision of having separate question papers for different countries was ruled out, as the difficulty level of questions will not be uniform, MCI said.

Both the Centre and MCI are on the same page in denying the request of the petitioners. The Court had issued notice to Centre on July 29 on Azeez’s petition and had sought response of MCI on the last date. Already, the Court has refused to postpone NEET and JEE exams in a separate petition heard by a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra on August 17.

Options are limited for Azeez and close to 4000 students whom he represents. In a rejoinder affidavit, Azeez’s lawyers have said that even if students reach India, quarantine protocols will not allow them to appear for the examination on September 13. States like Kerala have enforced a 28-day mandatory quarantine.

Students giving JEE on September 1-6 at their exam centres in the Middle East and who then have to appear for NEET in India have only a six-day gap between the two exams. The petitioner has requested the Court to consider the extraordinary circumstances and grant exam centres in Middle East or waive off the mandatory quarantine protocols to enable students to appear in the examination.



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