THE Madras High Court struck down on June 27 the recent order of the Tamil Nadu government abolishing the Common Entrance Examination (CEE) for admission to professional colleges (Frontline, July 1, 2005). According to the Government Order, the examination was abolished on the grounds that the CEE has now become "a traumatic experience for parents and children as it appears to determine at one stroke the future of the child" and also because "students from rural areas are affected as the entrance examination operates against their chances of gaining admission."
Over 400 writ petitions had been filed challenging the G.O. in the Madras High Court and its Madurai Bench. The First Bench of the court, comprising Chief Justice Markandey Katju and Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla, quashed the order mainly on two grounds. The first ground is that it violates the regulations framed by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the Medical Council of India and the Dental Council under which a CEE is mandatory in a State which has more than one body of examination at the qualifying level - such as the State Board of Education and the Central Board of Secondary Education, with different standards of marking, different syllabi and different modes of assessment. As this may lead to discrimination between different sets of students, a CEE conducted by the government would be the answer. The Tamil Nadu order, therefore, violates Article 14 of the Constitution.
The Bench observed: "It is well settled that Article 14 of the Constitution will be violated not only if equals are treated unequally, but also unequals are treated equally". The second ground for striking down the order is that "since the Medical Council Regulations, 1997, have been framed in pursuance of Section 33 of the Medical Council Act, 1956, which is a law made by Parliament, the field is occupied and hence also the impugned G.O. is illegal." The Bench further observed that the G.O. encroached on "a field occupied by the AICTE and Dental Council regulations." The Bench held that the G.O., therefore, violated Article 254 of the Constitution, which deals with inconsistency between laws made by Parliament and those made by State legislatures.
The court also observed that it was not inclined to interfere with the abolition of the improvement test by the impugned G.O. (Improvement examination provides students a chance to improve upon their Plus 2 marks.) "The decision is a policy decision which does not conflict with any statutory rule or regulation, nor can it be said to be arbitrary," it said. The Bench, however, observed,: "We are of the opinion that the said abolition should only apply from next year."S. Viswanathan