The Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday assured the Assembly it would not hesitate to move the Madras High Court to ascertain the reasons for return of two Bills by the Centre over excluding the state from the ambit of NEET.
This would be done to find out the reasons so that the bills could be adopted afresh in the Assembly and spare Tamil Nadu students from the exam, the government said in a heated debate on the issue.
The response came after the Leader of Opposition M K Stalin raised the issue and demanded adoption of two fresh Bills since the Centre returned those passed in 2017.
Citing Constitutional provisions, he said such Bills, though withheld and returned, could be adopted again by the Assembly.
Stalin alleged that the government did not exercise its power to resend it again in six months though the Centre had returned it in September 2017.
Law Minister C V Shanmugam said the bills could be resent to the President after passing it again in the Assembly with or without amendments.
"Since no reason was assigned by the Centre for returning the bills, if the state government re-enacts them in the same old form, it may also meet the same fate," he said.
Appropriate amendments could be incorporated only if the Centre stated why they withheld the earlier ones, he said, adding that was why the state had all along been seeking to know the reason for withholding the Bills.
Shanmugam said 12 letters had been sent to the Centre between October 2017 and July 2019, asking the reasons for withholding assent, to enable the government reconsider the matter and decide the further course of action.
Even three days before the matter was last discussed in the House on July 8, a letter was sent (July 5), he said.
Barring a September 22, 2017 communique that they were withheld, no other information was received from the Centre, he said.
Shanmugam said the government was committed to redraft the Bills and get it passed afresh in the Assembly if the Centre stated the reasons for holding back and returning them.
The chief minister would be consulted and one more reminder letter could be sent, asking for reasons for return of the bills so that Tamil Nadu could get it passed in the House again by incorporating appropriate amendments, he said.
If there was no response, the government would not hesitate to move the court, he asserted.
"The government has no hesitation or fear in getting it passed in the Assembly again immediately. We are always ready, considering the interests of students," Shanmugam said, adding the state government had not concealed any information related to NEET Bills from the Assembly.
He said the Centre returned the Bills categorising it as "withheld," on September 22 2017 and this has been stated before as well.
He pointed out that the Centre's affidavit Tuesday in the Madras High Court nowhere mentioned that "withheld" meant "rejection" of the two Bills, viz, the Tamil Nadu Admission to MBBS and BDS Courses, 2017 and the Tamil Nadu Admission to PG Courses in Medicine and Dentistry, 2017.
The Home Ministry placed the Bills for consideration of the President on September 11 2017 and he withheld assent for them, the Minister, said, reading out from official documents.
Stalin, however, said the Centre maintained that the bills were rejected in a pending case (related to NEET in the High Court) and asked why no "pressure" was exerted on the issue, demanding to know if the government would come forward to get the Bills passed again in the current session.
Shanmugam said assigning reasons for return of the Bills was the Centre's "duty", which they had not yet disclosed.
Hitting back at Stalin, who said the government did not follow up on the Bills, he said the Tamil Nadu Business Facilitation Act passed in 2009 was withheld and returned by the Centre in 2014.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami said there was no information on why the Bills were returned though the Centre submitted in the Madras High Court that these were sent back.
Even a special Assembly session could be held on NEET if the Centre did not respond to the reminder letter, he said.
He reiterated Shanmugam's view that only if the reasons for return of Bills were made known, it could be addressed.
On passing the Bills afresh, he wondered what could be done if the Centre rejected them without assigning any reason.
Though several letters were written to the Centre, there was no response, he said echoing his law minister.
There was unanimity on the need to exempt Tamil Nadu from NEET and he described it was as an important and emotive subject, considering welfare of the students.
Countering Stalin, who said pressure was not exerted on the Centre, he said memoranda on NEET was submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi many times and he had also taken it up personally.
"Whenever there was an opportunity to meet the Prime Minister we urged exemption to Tamil Nadu from NEET, since it affected poor and rural students," he said.