Charu Sharma, a 1st year student of National Law University, Jodhpur reviews the system of reservation for Other backward classes in medical colleges along with the various writ petitions filed in the court.
Recently, the AIADMK filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India to ask the Apex Court to ensure that reservation was observed for OBCs in the category of State-captured seats in undergraduate, postgraduate and diploma medical seats of the All India Quota as per law. The petition argues that the Central government failed to implement a 50% OBC reservation for State-surrendered seats in the All India Quota for all undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses for the year 2020-2021.
Another petition has been filed by former Union Health Minister, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, seeking a like objective of getting the government to fulfill the 27% OBC quota in Post Graduate Medical Seats under the All India Quota.
The All India Federation of Other Backward Classes Employees’ Welfare Associations also wrote to the Central health ministry, intimating their concerns about the government not providing enough seats to applicants hailing from the OBC quota. The federation also voiced their grievances to the National Commission of Backward Classes. It alleged that since 2017, candidates from the Other Backward Classes had been denied reservations under the All India Quota in both undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses. A public statement made by a group of more than 300 citizens, including student activists Gurmehar Kaur, Umar Khalid, and politicians S. Jothimani and B.K. Hariprasad, criticizing the reluctance of the government in dealing with the issue, has also surfaced.
RESERVATION IN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
The Parliament introduced the 93rd Constitutional Amendment in 2005 and added clause (5) in Article 15 of the Constitution. This allowed the government to make special provisions for the backward classes in terms of admissions in educational institutions, including private institutions.
The Central Government then passed the Central Educational Institutions(CEIs) (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006. It provided for the reservation of students belonging to S.C.s, STs, and OBCs in Central Educational Institutions (CEIs) established, maintained, or aided by the Central Government. These two decisions were challenged in the case of Ashok Thakur v. Union of India; however, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of both provisions.
HOW DOES RESERVATION IN MEDICAL COLLEGES WORK?
In Pradeep Jain v. Union of India, the Supreme Court held that states should be allowed to impose domicile reservations in colleges as the state government provides considerable financial assistance to the universities within its borders, and this money is derived from the taxes paid by the people domiciled in that particular state.
The medical examination NEET adheres to this idea. Medical aspirants have to give the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission in the undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
The total seats, in the colleges which use NEET as a criterion for admission in the undergraduate and diploma courses, are divided into two parts- 15% which will be filled through the All India Quota(AIQ) and the rest 85% which will be reserved for the students of respective states. There is an equal division in the seats between the All India Quota and the State Domicile Quota in the postgraduate courses.
As per the reservation criteria of NEET 2020, 15% out of the All India Quota seats are reserved for S.C. candidates, 7.5 % seats for S.T. candidates, while 27% of the seats are reserved for OBC candidates. A new category was also introduced this year; the much talked about General Economically weaker section; 10% of seats will be reserved.
Each state has its distinct reservation policy for various peoples in their territory.
THE ISSUE AT HAND
All the petitions mentioned above, filed under Article 32 of the Constitution, accused the Central government of not filling the 27% reservation that was supposed to be provided to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the All India Quota (AIQ) seats for undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses in the academic years 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20.
To take an example, within the year 2018-19, only 220 OBC candidates were admitted to postgraduate courses while they had claimed over 2,152 of the 7,982 seats. Similarly, only 66 OBC students were admitted under AIQ to the undergraduate course (MBBS). There are 4,061 AIQ MBBS seats, of which 27 percent (1,096) should be filled with OBC candidates.In a previouscouple of years, the OBCs are denied reservations in PG/UG medical seats under All India Quota. Thus, they are denied 3000 seats per annum, which are transferred to General Category.
In Mahesh Chandra v. Regional Manager, U.P. Financial Corporation, the Supreme court held that “The public functionaries should be duty conscious rather than power charged. Its actions and decisions which touch the common man have to be tested on the touchstone of fairness and justice. That which is not fair and just is unreasonable. And what is unreasonable is arbitrary.”
In this case, the actions of the executive officials have been insensitive. They cannot bear the tests of fairness and justice, as inaction in such a situation is grave misconduct on the part of the government.
The state’s concerned action is arbitrary as there can be no reasonable or fair explanation for not giving students their due. In E.P. Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu, the Apex Court held that “where an act is arbitrary, it is implicit in it that it is unequal, both according to political logic and constitutional law and is therefore violative of Article 14.” Therefore, this action of the executive violates Article 14 of the Constitution.
It also violates the state’s obligations under Article 15(4) and 15(5). It also violates the right to life and personal liberty, given under Article 21, as it does not pass the test of equality under Article 14, essential criteria of constitutionality as given in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India.
THE SPECIAL CASE OF TAMIL NADU
As per the Medical Council of India regulations, the reservation of seats in medical colleges for respective categories shall be as per applicable laws prevailing in States.
According to the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and Appointments or Posts in the Services Under the State) Act, 1993, 50% seats in educational institutions of Tamil Nadu are to be reserved for the backward classes.
This implies that under the All India Quota, there has to be a 50% reservation for backward classes in the medical colleges of Tamil Nadu in undergraduate, postgraduate and diploma courses. This differs from the all India ratio set at 27%.
The total number of State-surrendered seats to All India quota is 866. The various petitions from Tamil Nadu contend that OBC students from Tamil Nadu are entitled to a 50% reservation in these seats. Had this been followed, 443 OBC students would have acquired these seats. However, it was quoted that “only one seat was allotted to an OBC candidate in Tamil Nadu in a Central Government institution.”
When this issue was discussed in the Parliament, government representative and Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan gave an unsatisfactory reply. The minister told the Rajya Sabha that rules regarding reservations in medical colleges are in place. As the OBC quota differs from state to state and the state governments fix quotas, the Centre is unable to intervene. The minister also said that the Centre’s hands were tied as a case about this issue (Saloni Kumari v. Directorate of Health Services – petition number 596/2015) is pending in the Supreme Court.
Ever since then, the Central government has been silent on the issue. They are dodging all related questions by saying that it is a matter which is sub-judice, which seems ironic as the petition as mentioned above was filed for the proper execution of OBC reservations.
This is a very definitive case of executive inaction in a matter of grave importance to the basic principles of India’s constitution. If affirmative action procedures are ineffective and only exist on paper, it inspires disbelief and a feeling of alienation in the minorities.
In an already politically charged climate where there are more than apparent signs of majoritarianism, denying the backward classes a right they have won through a long drawn out legal battle is unfair but oppressive. Therefore, judicial intervention seems imperative at the moment.
All eyes are towards the Supreme Court, which seems to be the only savior for these distressed students. The Court needs to provide the backward classes with a suitable remedy and issue a writ of Mandamus, as has been said by the several petitions filed. It also needs to give an order for the proper implementation of the provided reservation.
Charu Sharma, a 1st year student from National Law University, Jodhpur
The Constitution (Ninety-third Amendment) Act, (Act o. 93/2005) (India), §2.
Central Educational Institutions(CEIs) (Reservation in Admission) Act, (Act no. 5/2007), (India).
Ashok Thakur v. Union of India, (2007) 4 SCC 361 (India).
Pradeep Jain v. Union of India,(1984) 3 SCC 654 (India).
Mahesh Chandra v. Regional Manager, U.P. Financial Corporation, (1993) 2 SCC 279 (India), ¶15.
E.P. Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu, (1974) 4 SCC 3 (India), ¶85.
Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and Appointments or Posts in the Services Under the State) Act, (Act no. 45/1994) (India), §3.
IMPORTANT – Opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IJOSLCA.