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Madras HC Strikes Down 85% Reservation For TN State Board Students In Medical Admissions [Read Judgment]

Madras High Court on Friday quashed State Government’s order providing 85% quota in medical admissions for students from the State Board, leaving only 15% of the total seats for students from CBSE and other boards.

“Upon considering all the facts and circumstances of the present case, the arguments advanced on either side of the case laws cited and discussed as supra, there is no difficulty for this Court to come to the conclusion that the impugned reservation amounts to discrimination among equals and thus, it violates Article 14 of the Constitution of India; that it is an arbitrary exercise of power; that it is totally unreasonable; that, under the guise of level playing, it makes the equals unequal; that it has no nexus between the object sought to be achieved; that it indirectly meddle with the object and process of NEET and that it amounts to compromising on the merits of the selection,” Justice K. Ravinchandrabaabu observed.

The Court was hearing Petitions filed by several CBSE Board students, who had qualified the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), and had now challenged the reservation criteria which was sought to be introduced by the Government Order passed on 22 June this year, through Clause IV (19) of the Prospectus of MBBS/BDS admission 2017-18.

The students had alleged that an executive order of the State cannot override the legislation occupying the field, and orders passed by the Apex Court to that effect. This contention was placed in light of Section 10-D of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, which mandates a uniform entrance examination for all Medical Institutions at the undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Moreover, the Petitioners brought to the notice of the Court that the State legislation to do away with NEET is still pending for the President’s assent, and therefore, the State Government cannot achieve through an executive order what it has not been able to achieve through legislation.

The Petitioners had, further, had alleged violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, on the ground that the G.O. discriminated between the students of State Board and Central Board, especially when the qualifying examination, i.e. NEET is common to all. The Petitioners’ contentions were also supported by the Indian Medical Council.

The State, on the other hand, had contended that it was empowered to lay down policy to protect its students in case of admissions under the State Government seats for MBBS/BDS courses. According to it, such protection was necessary as NEET places students from the State Board at a disadvantage vis-à-vis students from the CBSE Board. For this purpose, it relied on Article 162 of the Constitution of India, which prescribes the extent of executive power of the State.

It, further, opposed the allegations of violation of Article 14 on the ground that students from the State Board and those from CBSE Board are not equals. The G.O. was, therefore, passed to maintain the equality before law, it submitted.

At the outset, the Court noted that the impugned G.O. was issued solely on the basis of the proposal of the Additional Director of Medical Education, without there being any discussion by the Cabinet to that effect. This was despite the fact that the Additional Director is not competent to take a policy decision.

“I have already pointed out that to take a policy decision there must be a thorough discussion of the issue by the Cabinet and it cannot be taken simply based on a report submitted by the Additional Director of Medical Education,” the Court observed in this regard.

It then went on to observe that the State was not justified in treating the students from other Board differently, observing, “When the qualifying examination is the common entrance test, namely NEET, irrespective of the fact whether the student is from State Board or Central Board, the Government thereafter is not entitled to make two different classifications by way of the impugned reservation among the students who have taken part in the NEET examination. In my considered view, once they take NEET examination, all such students are to be treated equal and therefore, the Government is not justified in projecting their case as though they are doing level playing field among the unequals. Thus the impugned action violated Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”

The Court, thereafter, rapped the State for meting out “step-motherly treatment” to students from the CBSE Board by indulging in institutional reservation, and observed, “The reservation based on social status is one thing and the reservation based on institution wise is another thing. What is sought to be done by the impugned G.O. is nothing but an institutional reservation. One can understand the logic behind such reservation if the qualifying marks for admission into MBBS/ BDS course are the one obtained in the respective Board examination. But it is not so in the present case, as the qualifying examination viz., NEET is common for all Board students. Therefore, the State is not justified in treating the other Board students, namely CBSE etc. differently and curtailing their right to compete with the other State Board students in respect of all the seats earmarked under the State quota.”

Justice Ravinchandrabaabu therefore ruled that the impugned G.O. was “bad in law”, and thus, cannot be sustained.

Read the Judgment Here


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