The National Board of Examinations (NBE) on Friday told the Supreme Court that around 2.09 lakh candidates have registered for the NEET-PG exam 2023, which is scheduled for March 5, and no alternative date for conducting the exam may be available in the near future if it is postponed.
The submissions were made before a bench of justices S R Bhat and Dipankar Datta, which was hearing two petitions seeking postponement of the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET)-PG exam.
The apex court, which made clear that it was not passing any order either way, asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the NBE, to come out with a solution of the issue raised by the petitioners.
The petitioners have sought postponement of the examination saying the counselling have to be conducted after August 11 since the cut-off date for internship has been extended to that date.
“For those who are waiting for this (examination), it is really a mental torture,” the bench observed, adding, “When we postpone a judicial exam, there is agony for the candidates who are preparing for it. The whole dynamics change.”
When the bench said it wanted to know how many candidates would be affected by this, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for the petitioners, said the apex court can call the NBE to explain on it.
Later, ASG Bhati appeared in the matter and told the bench, “I have some information on the examination”.
Bhati said around 2.09 lakh candidates have registered for the exam, a technology partner has been roped in for conducting the test and all preparations have been made.
“If the examination is postponed, no alternate test date may be available in the near future as the technology partner may not be available,” she said, adding that the authorities are trying to follow the schedule affirmed by the apex court earlier.
Sankaranarayanan told the bench that though 13 petitioners have approached the apex court, the issue raised by them affects nearly 45,000 candidates.
He said the cut-off date for internship has been extended to August 11.
“When you go for the counselling, you need to carry the internship certificate. The date has been extended to August 11. The counselling can happen only after August 11,” Sankaranarayanan told the bench.
He said the gap between the examination, which is scheduled for March 5, and the counselling would be of over five months.
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Sankaranarayanan said students are undergoing internship for 12 hours a day and there was no adequate time for them to prepare for the examination.
“Those who have been preparing for months together, they have to be told to wait,” the bench observed, adding, “For those who are eligible and are waiting, it is torture for them”.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who also appeared for the petitioners, said the issue has arisen because different states have different schedule for internship.
“We want an answer. What is the solution for this,” the bench told the ASG, adding, “We are not indicating that it will be postponed.”
“We are not passing any order either way. We are keeping it open. You come with the figures,” it said.
The top court observed that the petitioners have become eligible for the examination as the date for internship was extended to August 11.
It said in normal course, such candidates had to wait for months and now when they have got a chance to appear in the exam, they want it to be postponed.
The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on February 27.
The petitioners, through their counsel Tanvi Dubey, have raised the issue of eligibility criteria been modified twice by the NBE and claimed that it reflects the oversight and mismanagement on its part of not consulting the state medical bodies in advance, thereby giving no time to the candidates to prepare.
The NEET-PG examination will be conducted as per schedule on March 5 for those aspiring to get admission to postgraduate medical courses, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya had told Lok Sabha on February 10.
To ensure that no one is left out, the ministry has extended the cut off date for all those MBBS students who are yet to complete their internship, he had said while replying to a question by a Congress member.
The ministry had extended the cut-off date from June 30 to August 11 for the NEET-PG aspirants to complete their mandatory one-year internship.