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No further rounds of counselling can be done: DGHS tells SC

New Delhi: The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it has concluded four rounds of online counselling for NEET-PG-21 and it cannot fill 1,456 seats by conducting a special stray round of counselling as the software stands closed.

The DGHS said the prayer of the petitioners for a special stray round of counselling is at a belated stage, as it will disrupt the whole process for the upcoming counselling session for NEET-PG-22 as the counselling for two academic sessions cannot run concurrently.

It said according to the top court's orders, it has conducted four rounds of online counselling for the post-graduate (PG) courses and followed the directions in letter and spirit, and that no further round apart from the four online rounds of counselling could be conducted.

The DGHS further said the software that was being used for conducting online counselling for 2021 is closed and the refund of security deposit for participation in PG counselling for 2021 has also been initiated.

In an affidavit filed on a batch of petitions seeking a special stray round of counselling for the 1,456 vacant seats, the DGHS said the NEET-PG counselling 2021 was delayed due to the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and various court cases across the country questioning the implementation of 27 per cent OBC reservation in the All India Quota (AIQ) seats.

"That this court is apprised of the fact that answering respondent (DGHS) is directed by this court that there shall be four rounds of online counselling for PG course and the last date of admissions for PG course was May 7.

Since, the answering respondent has acted in bonafide manner and complying with the direction of this court in full letter and spirit, no further rounds apart from four online rounds of counselling could be conducted," it said.

The DGHS said the NEET-PG counselling for 2021-22 commenced on January 12 and currently, all four rounds of online counselling, including an additional online special round for 146 seats, are concluded according to a March 31 order of the top court.

"It is pertinent to mention that at the stage of the mop-up round, the National Board of Examination, vide letter dated March 12, reduced the qualifying percentile of PG course from 50th percentile to 35 percentile, which resulted in inclusion of additional 25,200 candidates in subsequent rounds of NEET-PG counselling 2021," it said.

The DGHS further said even after the stray vacancy round, a total of 1,456 seats are vacant in the NEET-PG course for academic year 2021-22 and these seats have already been offered to the participating candidates throughout the various rounds of counselling.

"That in total, 2,025 seats were offered in the AIQ stray vacancy round of PG 2021 counselling, for which a total number of 1,17,945 candidates have participated in the AIQ stray vacancy round. Even after conducting a stray vacancy round, 1,456 seats have remained vacant, of which approximately 1,117 seats (76.7 per cent of total remaining seats) belong to pre-paramedical seats, which were not selected by the participating candidates in various rounds of counselling," it said.

Earlier in the day, a vacation bench of Justices MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose pulled up the Medical Counselling Committee (MCC) for leaving over 1,450 seats vacant in NEET-PG-21, saying it will not only put the aspirants in difficulty, but would also lead to a dearth of doctors.

The Apex Court had given 24 hours to the Centre and the MCC to file an affidavit indicating the position of the seats that have remained vacant and the reasons as to why they were not filled up.

It directed the counsel appearing for the Centre and the MCC to file the affidavit during the course of the day and posted the matter for further hearing on Thursday.

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