SC Declines Plea to Set Up NEET Exam Centres Abroad

The Supreme Court has allowed students to fly to India on the Vande Bharat Mission flights to appear for the exam.

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The Supreme Court on Monday, 24 August, declined a plea for directions to the Centre and the National Testing Agency (NTA) for setting up NEET exam centres abroad for the benefit of students in foreign countries in the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.

A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, and S Ravindra Bhat asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to discuss with ministries concerned whether students who wish to visit India to sit in the NEET exam could be accommodated on the Vande Bharat Mission flights.

The court also asked Mehta to explore the possibility that aspirants based out of the Middle East countries were permitted to board such flights.

“Please put in a word that they are allowed to come back and give [write] the exams. If not, they will lose a year,” the bench told Mehta.

According to the rules, people arriving in India from abroad are required to undergo 14-day quarantine in the interest of public health.

The bench also refused to grant the request to relax the 14-day quarantine requirement and said, “We are afraid such a direction cannot be given, as it would endanger public health.”

The bench noted that the incoming students are permitted to approach the state governments concerned for relaxations in quarantine periods.

Mehta contended before the bench that the issue could be taken care of, subject to quarantine requirements and that they establish that they were coming for the exam.

The top court told the petitioners' counsel that he could ask his clients to plan their return in the backdrop of quarantine requirements. The counsel argued that many students abroad intended to sit in both the NEET and Joint Entrance Exams (JEE).

The petitioners said that only a six-day gap between JEE (1-6 September) and NEET exam (13 September) was also an issue.

The petitioners had moved the apex court to challenge a Kerala High Court order to dismiss their plea to set up examination centres abroad, or postpone the exams due to the pandemic.

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