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Monday, February 27, 2006

Court prefers entrance rather than Exit

From Chennai Online and The Hindu

High Court quashes Tamil Nadu Government's new admission policy

By A.Subramani

Chennai, Feb. 17: The Madras High Court on Monday struck down the Tamil Nadu Government's new admission policy for professional courses, and alsodirected the Government to commence the process for conducting commonentrance test for the coming academic year.

The First Bench comprising Chief Justice A.P. Shah and Justice PrabhaSridevan, passing orders on a batch of writ petitions, filed both in favourof and against the new policy dispensing with the CET for State Board students alone, said the State did not have legislative competence to pass the impugned legislation. The Bench said it also violated the fundamental right to equality as enshrined in the Constitution.

It sought to distinguish State Board students from non-State board candidates, and that while the former was exempted from writing the "burdensome" CET the latter was expected to write their qualifying examination and then sit for the CET. It was a twin burden as the CET was designed on the basis of the syllabus of the State Board students, it pointed out.

The State lacked legal competence to come out with the impugned Act as regulating procedure and laying down guidelines for admission to professional courses was a field occupied by the Centre, the Bench said, adding that such matters were clearly governed by the Medical Council and All India Council for Technical Education Regulations, it reiterated.

The Tamil Nadu Government also failed to furnish the scientific data based on which it came to the conclusion that dispensing with the CET would result in improving the academic prospects of students from rural areas, the Bench said.

It also pointed out that the available statistical data proved that the CBSE and ICSE students never stood between the rural students and their chances to obtain admission in professional courses. The legislation must have addressed the real issue of the urban matriculate versus the rural matriculate within the State Board stream, it said, and added that the legislation would only result in enabling the urban matriculate to steal a march over their rural counterparts.

When the State Advocate-General pleaded for a leave of the court to prefer a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court, the Bench rejected the plea and instead directed the Government to start the process for holding the CET in Tamil Nadu without any further delay.

The Madras High Court today struck down the Tamil Nadu government legislation abolishing Common Entrance Test (CET) for admissions to professional courses for state board students.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice Prabha Sridevan held that the state government had no powers to enact the legislation abolishing CET for state board students and that the Act was void and unenforceable.

Allowing a batch of petitions from students challenging the Act, the Chief Justice, who dictated the order on behalf of the Bench, held the Act had no nexus to the objects to be achieved by the recent 93rd Constitutional amendment.

The Bench observed that under the recent amendment, Article 15(5) of the Constitution empowered the state governments to bring forward laws for the benefit of socially and educationally weaker sections.

Holding that the state Legislature was not competent to bring out the Act, the Bench said it also violated the principle of equality enshrined under Article 14 of the Constitution.

The impugned legislation, the Bench said, was against the regulations of the Medical Council of India (MCI) and All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

"It is difficult to accept the state government stand that if the CET was abolished it would help rural students," the Bench said.

The court directed the state to commence the process for holding the CET in accordance with the MCI and AICTE regulations for the academic year 2006-07 for students of all educational boards.

The Bench had on February 24 reserved orders for today after hearing arguments by petitioners' counsel and advocates representing the state government, including Supreme Court lawyer Mukul Rohtagi and state Advocate General N R Chandran.

The impugned Tamil Nadu Regulation of Admission to Professional Courses Act, 2006 was passed by the state Assembly on January 27.

The petitioners contended that the Act violated the fundamental right of equality as guaranteed under the Constitution by proposing different examinations and valuations for different boards for admissions to the same professional courses.

The Act, while exempting students of state board curriculum from taking entrance examinations for admission to professional courses in the state, had made CET mandatory for students from other boards.

The state government had abolished the common entrance test last year itself through an executive order, but it was struck down by the High Court. (Our Correspondent)