The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to exempt students from Tamil Nadu from taking the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for admissions to medical colleges. The apex court said medical colleges in the state will have to admit students based on their Neet results or those of a common entrance exam, NDTV reported. It asked the Tamil Nadu government to finish counselling by September 4.

On August 17, the bench had prohibited admissions in state medical colleges till Tuesday, a day after the Union Law Ministry cleared the Tamil Nadu government’s Ordinance to exempt students from the state from Neet for a year.

The Centre is believed to have said that the Ordinance cannot be accepted as the rules of the Neet cannot be changed for just one state. On Monday, Attorney General KK Venugopal went back on his earlier opinion and said that the Ordinance was not “legally valid”, according to The New Indian Express.

On August 17, the bench of justices Dipak Misra, Amitava Roy and AM Khanvilkar had heard a batch of petitions opposing the Ordinance. “We concentrated on Neet and not the board exams,” several students who had passed the national exam said in their petitions. “Around 33,000 students qualified Neet. They will suffer if the Ordinance is framed.”

The Neet controversy

Medical college admissions across India are done on the basis of Neet scores. However, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-led Tamil Nadu government has been opposing the examination. They have been asking for reservation to protect the interests of students from Tamil Nadu.

The state first resisted the introduction of Neet initially because it said the Central Board of Secondary Education-based exam would harm the admission prospects of students from the state board. Then, after the results of this year’s exam were declared on June 23, the state reserved 85% seats for these students and ordered a separate merit list. On July 14, the Madras High Court had struck this order down.

The central board’s students, who had challenged this in court, had argued that it is “discriminating [against] students solely on the basis of their school board”.

On July 22, Tamil Nadu Opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam had saidthat the test puts social justice in danger. Its Working President MK Stalin had said that Neet has ruined medical aspirants’ dreams.