A two member Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and R. Banumathi have adjourned the hearing on the inclusion of Urdu language in NEET 2017 to Friday, March 31. The adjournment order was passed with regard to Writ Petition Number 122/2017 filed by the Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO) against the Centre to demand for Urdu inclusion in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2017.
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In the earlier hearing on March 10, the Centre had informed the Supreme Court that it was open to including Urdu as one of the languages in which NEET was held, but it could only introduce it from next year onwards and not for NEET 2017. The same Supreme Court Bench had then granted permission to the Centre to submit its full response in the matter by March 22 and adjourned the hearing to March 24.
After the first hearing on March 3, the apex court had also issued notices to the Centre, the Cental Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) which is the exam conducting body, the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Dental Council of India (DCI) to explain their reasoning as to why Urdu couldn’t be included in the list of languages in which NEET 2017 would be held.
With the NEET application process closing on March 1, the SIO had earlier filed a plea of urgency motion on February 24 seeking for an advancement on the date of the Urdu inclusion hearing. The reason behind seeking advancement was that once the NEET registrations would close, then students who wished to apply for NEET 2017 in Urdu would be left disadvantaged. The urgency plea had been rejected by a three member Bench comprising Chief Justice of India, JS Khehar, and Justices DY Chandrachud and SK Kaul, who listed the petition for hearing on March 3.
As per the counsel for the SIO, the matter continues to be delayed even now primarily because the Centre has yet to inform them in advance about the responses it files with the Court before each hearing.
SIO had filed its petition with the Supreme Court on the basis that the non-inclusion of Urdu in the list of NEET languages was in violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. As per the CBSE notification on NEET 2017, Hindi and English along with the regional languages of Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Marathi, Assamese, Bengali, Oriya and Kannada were finalised as the official mediums of examination. The SIO had argued that including only 8 regional languages apart from Hindi and English was extremely unfair on numerous students completing their school education in the Urdu language. “Urdu has been arbitrarily and unreasonably left out as a medium (for NEET 2017)...Leaving out Urdu...not only deprives a large number of students studying science in Urdu Medium of equal opportunity, but is also a violation of right to life, being denied the opportunity to pursue a career in Health Sciences and shape their lives as per their choice and interest,” the petition read. The SIO also contended that if Kannada and Oriya could be introduced for NEET 2017, despite only being the seventh and eighth most spoken languages in India, then Urdu, being the sixth most spoken language, should also be introduced.
NEET 2017 will be held on May 7. Apart from the Urdu inclusion controversy, various rules of the exam have been subject to legal battles. A petition challenging the age limit will also be heard by the Court on Friday, March 31, although it has already granted interim relief to those petitioners and allowed them to fill the applications. Whether a similarly positive verdict will be declared by the Supreme Court for the Urdu language petitioners remains to be seen.
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