Delhi: A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant in the Supreme Court refused to lower the cut-off percentile for admission to NEET super-specialty courses, saying doctors have to deal with patient’s life and merit cannot be disregarded. On Monday, 9 May 2022, the bench said that the reasons put forth by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare cannot be regarded as extraneous and arbitrary as “doctors have to deal with a patient's life and merit cannot be disregarded”.
However, the bench held that “Candidates are sufficiently available for undertaking the counseling of vacant seats but the decision to not reduce the percentile is based on not compromising the merit. Question of whether the percentile should be reduced further is a matter of academic policy…in the circumstances, it is not possible for the court to entertain a plea for directing the reduction of the percentile.”
Senior advocate PS Patwalia was the one contending for the petitioners who wanted the cut-off to be lowered. It was submitted that a total of 940 seats are still vacant for the academic year 2021-22 and if the cut-off were not lowered, these seats will go waste at a time when the country needs doctors, he contended.
“In the previous academic year, the cut-off percentile was initially fixed at 50 but was reduced to 30 for 2019-20 and 45 for 2020-21. They have reduced cut-off marks for PG courses this year but not for the super-specialty courses. They cannot choose to reduce the cut-off marks for certain categories only,” he said.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for Centre, said during the academic year 2019-20 the cut-off percentile was reduced so as to bring down the number of vacant seats to 272 from 809 due to COVID.
She said, for the academic year 2020-21, the percentile was reduced to 45 from 50 as a result of which vacant seats were reduced to 91 from the original over 900 seats. “For this academic year, the percentile has been maintained as 50 for 940 seats which have remained vacant because the majority of the seats are those which do remain vacant. A considered decision was taken after a meeting on May 4 with all the stakeholders that lowering the percentile would be like compromising the standards,” she said.
The bench said the court will have to take note that these doctors were not able to obtain the 50 percentile cut-off and they will be handling the patients in super-specialty categories. “This court will not like to interfere unless there is manifest arbitrariness,” the bench asserted.