Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Health ministry, MCI lock horns over notification for common medical examination

NEW DELHI: The union health ministry and Medical Council of India (MCI) are now on a collision course over the proposed common entrance test for all MBBS and PG medicine courses in the country.

Two days after TOI reported on MCI's notification making the national eligibility-cum-entrance test (NEET) mandatory for admissions to all medical courses, the health ministry has directed MCI to withdraw the notification 'with immediate effect'. But MCI has decided not to recall the notification saying it was issued based on the apex court's nod on December 14 and the affidavit filed by the union health ministry in support of CET.

MCI published the notification on December 21 amending regulations on graduate and post-graduate medical education, and introducing NEET as the sole admission requirement. Besides prescribing a certain cut-off percentage of NEET marks for various sections of candidates, the notification said it would also consider marks in mathematics for MBBS admissions.

Though the notification claimed that it had the previous approval of the Centre, the health ministry in a letter to the MCI chairman dated January 3 said there was "no previous approval of the central government for amending the regulations." It had even termed the notification "invalid".

It had directed the board of members to withdraw the notification forthwith.

The All India Medical Association (AIMA) president TD Naidu too demanded the withdrawal of the notification, and made it known that AIMA would take steps to get the notification scrapped.

The MCI has, however, reiterated its stand and said it issued the notification after a go-ahead from the Supreme Court. An SC bench comprising Justices R V Raveendran and A K Patnaik had on December 14 clarified that "pendency of petitions will not stand in the way of MCI notifying the new regulations (proposing single CET) and others from challenging the notification (subsequently)".

Though the MCI is yet to send a formal reply to the Centre, Dr Sita Naik, member of the governing council, told TOI: "We issued the notification after the SC gave us the go-ahead. The ministry has its own point of view." In reply, a ministry official said, "We are agreeable in principle to the idea of a CET but before a formal approval is given, we will have to have wider consultation with states and all other stakeholders. The MCI has been asked to withdraw the notification as it has not been approved by the ministry."

On his part, union HRD minister Kapil Sibal, speaking to reporters in Tiruchi in Tamil Nadu, said final decision would be taken only after considering views of states. "In the process of reforms in education sector, not a single step would be taken without consultation with states." MCI's notification would mean that a single entrance exam would be held for MBBS and MD courses offered by all 271 medical colleges — 138 run by governments and 133 under private management.

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