The Supreme Court has dismissed the writ petition seeking a Special Stray Round of counselling for filling up the remaining vacant seats of National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET)-PG-2021. The bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice Aniruddha Bose held that the process of admission cannot be endless.

"The process of admission and that too in the medical education cannot be endless. It must end at a particular point of time. The time schedule has to be adhered to, otherwise, ultimately, it may affect the medical education and the public health", the court held while dismissing the petition.

The dispute was related to admissions for NEET-PG-2021. Around 40,000 seats were available for the NEET-PG examination, which included the clinical and non-clinical seats. The NEET-PG examination was conducted on 11.09.2021 and the result was declared on 28.09.2021.

As per the modified counselling scheme, counselling had to be carried out in four rounds and no seats were to be reverted to States. All four rounds were held, each for All India Quota and State Quotas (in all eight rounds of counselling) and thereafter another round of counselling was conducted, and approximately 1456 seats remained vacant.

The Petitioners had prayed to the Court to direct the Medical Consulting Committee to conduct a Special Stray Round of counselling with respect to the seats which had remained vacant.

Earlier, the petitioners had participated in all the counsellings but could not get the admissions.

The Petitioners submitted that 1456 seats were vacant for NEET-PG-2021 and that the wastage of these seats can hamper the interest of both colleges and the candidates.

It was further submitted that the seats which remained vacant were vacant due to the non-joining, resignation and the candidates not reported. Therefore the petitioners stated that it was the duty cast upon the Medical Consulting Committee to fill up the posts that remained vacant.

Balbir Singh, Additional Solicitor General (ASG), appearing on behalf of the Union of India and Advocate Gaurav Sharma, appearing on behalf of the Medical Counselling Committee as well as the National Board of Examinations, opposed the petitions.

ASG Balbir Singh argued that all those seats that were vacant, usually remain vacant every year as there are no takers and/or they can be said to be rejected seats. He submitted that even if one additional round of counselling is carried out as requested by the petitioners, in that case also the seats were bound to remain vacant.

He further submitted that there cannot be an endless exercise of conducting counselling one after another till all the seats are filled in. Terming the decision of not conducting another Special Stray Round of counselling as a conscious decision, ASG Balbir Singh, argued that the entire software mechanism was closed and the security deposit was also been refunded to the eligible candidates.

The Court noted that as per the earlier counselling policy, only two rounds of counselling were being held for All India Quota seats and State Quotas but as per the modified scheme of counselling, this time four rounds of counselling were held.

The Court further observed that the seats that have remained vacant were mostly non-clinical courses, which remained even after eight or nine rounds of counselling.

The Court held that the students cannot still pray for admission on those seats after approximately one year of the academic session and remain vacant after eight or nine rounds of counselling. The Court placed reliance on Supreet Batra and Ors. where it was held that even if some seats remain vacant, the students cannot be admitted mid-term.

"…merely because the seats are lying vacant, is not a ground to grant extension of time and grant further opportunity to fill up vacant seats", the court held.

The Court further held that the Union Government/the Medical Counselling Committee took a conscious decision of not conducting a further Special Stray Round of counselling, and held that it cannot be said that the same was arbitrary.

And to that end held that "The decision of the Union Government and the Medical Counselling Committee not to have Special Stray Round of counselling is in the interest of Medical Education and Public Health. There cannot be any compromise with the merits and/or quality of Medical Education, which may ultimately affect the Public Health".

The Court observed that one additional round of stray counselling can affect the admission process for NEET-PG-2022. And to that end held "…it is to be noted that the admission process for NEET-PG-2022 has already begun, the results for the NEET-PG-2022 has been announced on 01.06.2022 and as per the time schedule, the counselling process is going to start in July, 2022. Therefore, if one additional Special Stray Round of counselling is conducted now, as prayed, in that case, it may affect the admission process for NEET-PG-2022."

Accordingly, the petitions were dismissed.

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