NEET-SS: SC notice to Centre, others on plea seeking direction to conduct third Round of Counselling

The Supreme Court on Thursday sought responses from the Centre and others on a plea by 13 doctors seeking directions for a third round of National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) Super Specialisation counselling and permitting them to participate in it so they could get seats in better institutions and pursue courses of their choice.

A bench of Justices B R Gavai and Sandeep Mehta agreed to hear the petition filed by these doctors who said they qualified for the all-India quota in the NEET-SS, 2023-2024 entrance examination held in September last year and have been allotted seats in various super specialty courses after the first and second round of counselling.

The bench issued notice to the Centre, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, the National Medical Commission and others seeking their responses on the plea and posted it for hearing on Monday.

The petitioners have said as on date, there are approximately over 140 vacant seats in NEET super specialisation courses and conducting a third round of counselling will allow them to upgrade their seats which would otherwise be made part of a mop-up or stray round, for which they are not eligible to participate.

“Depriving the petitioners of an opportunity to upgrade to the vacant seats while allowing less meritorious candidates to take up such seats would seriously dilute merit. Moreover, the same is also manifestly arbitrary and discriminatory against the petitioners and thus in violation of Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution of India,” said the plea, filed through advocate Rashmi Nandakumar.

It said the petitioners have completed their education in medicine up to the level of postgraduation from various reputed colleges across the country.

The plea said the issue of vacancies has been compounded as on January 3 and January 16, 2024, a second and third round of counselling for super speciality seats/courses in the Institutes of National Importance (INI) was conducted by the AIIMS, Delhi.

Resultantly, it said, several candidates who had secured seats in the NEET-SS counselling (2023-24) also left or not joined their respective seats leading to several more vacancies.

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“Usually, the INI-SS counselling is conducted much prior to the NEET-SS counselling, however, due to delay in the NEET-SS counselling, there was a departure from the established schedule,” the plea said.

It said the NEET-SS 2023-24 prospectus and counselling scheme does not provide for a third round of counselling.

“It is submitted that the NEET-SS 2023-24 prospectus and counselling scheme does not (a) provide for a third round of counselling and (b) permit candidates such as the petitioners herein who have secured seats in the first and second round of counselling to upgrade to better seats (such as those seats which have been left/not joined by the candidates who have now joined INI-SS),” the plea said.

The petitioners have sought directions to the authorities concerned to hold a third round of counselling, allowing them to attempt for upgradation.

“Granting this opportunity would result in the petitioners vacating their current seats upon successful upgradation, thereby maintaining the overall number of available seats and allowing for merit based seat allocation to their earlier seats,” it said.

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