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Now that the Tamil Nadu Governor, R N Ravi, has received the Bill, commonly called the NEET Exemption Bill, from the Tamil Nadu Government as duly passed by the State Assembly for the second time, focus is on the Governor as to his next course of action. Constitutional experts say that the Governor was duty bound to refer the Bill to the President as under Article 200 he has no other option. However, the political reality is that the DMK government will have no immediate relief and that the NDA government at the Centre headed by the BJP will block the State legislation at every step.

The Tamil Nadu Assembly, for the first time in the history of the State, adopted the Bill, rejected by the Governor, for the second time and sent it back to the Governor for his assent. The Assembly first passed the Tamil Nadu Admission to Undergraduate Medical Degree Courses Act, 2021 on September 13, 2021. With the Governor returning the Bill to Speaker M. Appavu on February 3, 2022, Chief Minister M.K. Stalin called an all-party meeting on February 5 which decided to convene a one-day special session of the Assembly on February 8 to pass the bill again. Chief Minister MK Stalin said, “The special session of the Assembly is not just to oppose NEET, but also to reinforce cooperative federalism and preserve the state’s sovereignty”.

Although the Assembly unanimously voted in favour of the resolution to send the Bill back to the Governor, rebutting the latter’s argument that the Bill went against the concept of social justice and discriminated against poor students, there is little possibility of the Governor accepting the Tamil Nadu Government’s point of view or  indeed that of the entire political spectrum, barring the BJP which boycotted the Government all-party meet and also before voting on the Bill in the Assembly.

The President’s rejection of the State Bill could take several months which would mean that another academic year would come into being on the basis of NEET examination

It is crystal clear that the BJP is totally opposed to the State move and that it will continue to oppose the legislation both in Chennai and in Delhi. Under Article 200 of the Constitution, the Governor would have to accord assent or refer it to the President. The Governor may use the option to forward the Bill to the President. The DMK Government and the various political parties backing its move against the NEET examination stress that the Governor should send the Bill to the President. It is not as if the State would have its way once the Governor does so.

Going by the track record of the BJP and its Government at the Centre, and judging by the action of the President in 2017, when the President declined assent to a similar Bill passed by the then AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu, there is little likelihood of the new Bill getting the approval of the President. There is also no way of ensuring that the Governor and the President would act speedily, even if it is a negative decision, and it is definitely possible that the President and the Governor could sleep over the State legislation. The President’s rejection of the State Bill could take several months which would mean that another academic year would come into being on the basis of NEET examination.

Ultimately, the DMK government would have to move the Supreme Court, where too the AIADMK government did not meet with much success as Education is on the Concurrent List, and the Union government does have certain powers in this regard.

In the last few years, there have been very few judgments against the BJP-led NDA government by the Supreme Court

All that the DMK can achieve is to create the perception that it is going all out to fight the NEET examination, and that it will leave no quarter unturned, unlike the AIADMK government which did not even reveal for several months that the President had declined assent to its Bill, and also enabled implementation and compliance by establishing coaching classes and revising the State syllabus to bring it somewhat on par with that of the CBSE.

In the perception battle, the DMK can do little more than hope that it can keep its image intact, and also the issue politically as ammunition against the BJP, and its partner, the AIADMK in the State, to effectively tackle the adverse fallout of a failure to block the NEET exam. While the AIADMK takes pot-shots at the DMK for having promised to end the NEET exam, it leaves itself exposed by continuing to be part of the NDA, even if they have briefly parted company with the BJP for the local body elections on February 19 in the State.

Even while the DMK continues its exercise of ramming its head against the wall with limited or no success, its only advantage is that the AIADMK is on weaker ground, having implemented the NEET exam, and being an ally of the BJP.  The DMK should consider itself lucky if it gets the Supreme Court on its side. Here too, prospects are dim considering that in the last few years, there have been very few judgments against the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre.

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