The Medical Council of India (MCI) said in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court that there cannot be any testing center outside of India for the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) scheduled for September 13th.
The affidavit came in response to a petition from the father of a NEET aspirant from the Middle East who requested that the MBBS student entrance exam be either taken online or to provide an exam center for nearly 4,000 NEET candidates who are due to the COVID 19 pandemic. The petition will be performed in front of a bank led by Justice LN Rao on Monday.
The MCI said in its affidavit submitted by attorney Gaurav Sharma that holding an online exam is out of the question as NEET follows a “paper-to-book format” and will compromise the “consistency” of the exam. This is in contrast to the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) engineering course, which is scheduled to take place September 1-6 both online and offline in India and nine centers outside India, six of which are in the Middle East.
The MCI even rejected the request for NEET test centers in Qatar and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries for NEET candidates stuck there. The affidavit states: “… in order to conduct an exam like NEET, which must be a uniform exam, fairly, it is imperative that the exam be taken everywhere at the same time, which is not possible if the exam is taken in being out of the country for various reasons including different time zones, logistical issues, test papers confidentiality, etc., is a brochure-based exam. ”
The petitioner Abdul Azeez has cited the lack of flights and an international travel blockade announced by the Indian government in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, the MCI said: “The Indian government has allowed travel to and from other countries through the Vande Bharat Mission. It is alleged that, as part of this mission, the Government of India allowed Indian citizens, including overseas citizens of India, to enter India on special flights. ”
The MCI cited logistical and operational difficulties in conducting audits outside of India. Holding NEET in India is a year-long exercise that requires prior identification of exam centers, appointment of staff and supervisors, and careful planning and execution. The center will have no control over exam centers overseas and detailed planning is required to transport questionnaires around the globe, especially when 16 lakh students show up for the exam, the MCI explained.
The possibility of questionnaires being phased out cannot be ruled out if the test is to be carried out in several countries at different time zones at the same time. Even providing separate questionnaires for different countries has been ruled out as the difficulty of the questions will not be uniform, MCI said.
Both the center and the MCI are on the same page when it comes to denying the petitioners’ request. The court informed Center about Azeez’s petition on July 29 and asked for a response from MCI on the last day. The court has already refused to postpone the NEET and JEE exams in a separate petition heard on August 17 by a bank led by Justice Arun Mishra.
Options are limited for Azeez and the nearly 4,000 students he represents. In an affidavit on the rejoinder, Azeez attorneys have stated that quarantine protocols will not allow them to appear for exam on September 13, even if students come to India. States like Kerala have enforced a 28-day quarantine requirement.
Students who pass JEE at their Middle East exam centers on September 1st and 6th and then have to appear for NEET in India have only a six-day break between the two exams. The petitioner has asked the court to take into account the exceptional circumstances and to allow exam centers in the Middle East or to waive the mandatory quarantine protocols to allow students to take the exam.