NEET row: Sibal demands probe by SC-appointed officials, calls for consulting with states in future


PTI, Jun 16, 2024, 6:39 PM IST

Kapil Sibal (Credit: PTI / File)

New Delhi: Amid the raging row over medical entrance exam NEET, former HRD minister Kapil Sibal on Sunday demanded a probe by Supreme Court-appointed officials into allegations of irregularities and called on the government to have a thorough consultation with all states as to how this examination is to be held in future.

In an interview with PTI, the Rajya Sabha MP also hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the issue, saying if the testing system in any examination becomes corrupt then it is “not really neat for the PM to remain silent”.

Sibal urged all political parties to raise the matter strongly in the upcoming session of Parliament but was not optimistic about it being taken up for discussion, predicting that the government will not allow it citing that the matter is sub-judice.

“The present National Testing Agency (NTA) has really bungled and corruption has been brought to light on media platforms, such as providing solutions for question papers for something like becoming a doctor,” Sibal, who was the Human Resource Development (now the portfolio is Education) minister from May 29, 2009 to October 29, 2012, said.

“Some of these incidents in Gujarat have perplexed me and are a matter of great national concern. I think NTA should answer some of these very serious questions,” he said.

Sibal said what is even more surprising and disappointing is that whenever something like this happens and there is corruption under the aegis of the present government, the “andh bhakts” start blaming the UPA for it and that is most unfortunate because they don’t seem to be fully educated before making statements of this nature.

He pointed out that the NEET regulation was introduced in 2010 by the Medical Council of India (MCI) through its board of directors. The MCI was under the ministry of health and not under the ministry of education.

“So, I as the minister of HRD had nothing to do with this. The medical council of India board of governors introduced a regulation, saying there should be a national eligibility test for students getting admitted to MBBS course. The regulation was challenged by writ petitioners and it was struck down by the Supreme Court on July 18, 2013, saying the MCI has no legislative competence to introduce NEET which is an all India eligibility entrance test,” he said.

“So, after this was struck down, on April 11, 2014, a review petition was filed. The review was allowed and the order of 2013 was withdrawn,” he said.

“The BJP government came to power and on April 28, 2016, a writ petition was filed in Supreme Court, saying since the order striking down the NEET regulation has been withdrawn, why isn’t the regulation issued by MCI under board of governors, not being implemented,” Sibal said.

Thereafter, on August 4, 2016, the then BJP government introduced section 10D and the Indian Medical Council Act was amended, he noted.

“On August 8, 2019, the National Medical Council Act was passed replacing the Indian Medical Council Act of 1956. It contained another section 14 which provided for the NEET examination. On October 29, 2020, the Supreme Court upheld this legislation,” he said.

“The legislation was introduced by the present government….This had nothing to do with UPA,” he added.

Sibal also hit out at Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan for his remarks rejecting allegations of paper leak or rigging in the exam.

“Let him go on social media and see how this is happening in Gujarat itself. The state of Gujarat is one of the progressive states, even in respect of corruption it seems to be somewhat progressive,” he said, taking a swipe at the BJP.

Sibal alleged there is rampant corruption in the manner in which examinations are being held not just in one state but throughout the country.

“If 67 students have maxed and some of them belong to same centre I think the minister should be worried about it instead of saying there is nothing wrong. In this government, there would not be any minister who will admit that something wrong has been done,” he said.

The Rajya Sabha MP said the complexity of this country is such that any kind of uniformity tends to favour a certain class of people.

“As you know Tamil Nadu has been opposed to the NEET exam. There is something to be said for that because the examination is based on CBSE courses and therefore it favours schools which have a CBSE examination. There are lots of local boards also in the country,” he said.

Talking about the way forward, Sibal said any kind of aberration in the NEET exam which is very competitive requires a thorough inquiry.

Sibal said a CBI inquiry will protect the administration and so an inquiry is needed through an independent agency or independent officers selected by the Supreme Court and not by the government in power.

“I think this government centralises everything, every decision is taken on basis of whims and fancies of authorities in Delhi. With India having a 140 crore population and such a complex social order, I think the Centre must consult each state and come up with a consensus as to how admissions for medicine are going to take place,” he said.

Sibal said he would raise the issue in Parliament if given a chance.

“I do urge all political parties to raise this issue (in Parliament) because it impacts the lives of young people of the country,” he said.
Sibal said any probe by the NTA is unacceptable.

On alleged irregularities and use of corrupt means in such a prestigious exam, Sibal said this is very dangerous for patients getting themselves treated and this should be taken very seriously by the Supreme Court which, he stated, will do so.

The examination was held on May 5 across 4,750 centres and around 24 lakh candidates appeared for it.

There have been allegations of question paper leaks in states like Bihar and other irregularities in the prestigious exam.

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