A Chief Justice led division bench of the Rajasthan High Court on Friday quashed the order of a single-Judge, directing the state Government and NEET, PG Medical Counseling Board, to conduct fresh round of counseling for admissions to PG seats in the State by including additional 89 seats allotted for implementation of Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota.
"There was no infirmity or illegality in the first round of counselling and also in the action of the State-appellants to provide/allot 55 seats to candidates belonging to the EWS," the bench comprised of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta held.
The order was passed in an appeal preferred by the government of Rajasthan against the order of single-Judge dated June 15, 2020.
In the original writ petition, students had challenged the action of the State Government in not including 89 additional seats, which were provided by the Medical Council of India (MCI), for implementation of 10% EWS quota.
They had contended that on account of not including the said seats in the first round of counseling, serious prejudice has been caused to the candidates of general category who were meritorious and would have been provided the Colleges and faculties of their choice and would have been placed accordingly.
The Government had offered the option of free exit whereby a candidate who had already been admitted in the first round of counselling was free to exit and again opt for a seat in the second round of counselling.
The single-Judge had held that on account of not adding the seats in the first round of counselling, the future of the meritorious students has been "put to a loss" which cannot be compensated by the method of open exit in second round of counseling.
[Non-Inclusion Of EWS Quota Seats] Rajasthan HC Cancels First Round Of Counseling For Medical PG Admissions; Directs Fresh Counseling
Disagreeing with the single-Judge, the division bench observed,
"Admittedly, there is an option of "free exit" in the first round of counselling and any candidate (including those belonging to the UR/open category) are free to exit and submit his/her preference afresh. Thus, by the alleged action of the appellants in not including additional seats in the first round of counselling, no prejudice has been caused to any of the petitioners as the same would be added in the second round of counselling and all open category candidates including the petitioners can submit their options afresh."
The bench further clarified,
"The policy of reservation is within the exclusive domain of the State and the MCI cannot curtail the power or discretion of the State in this regard. The role of the MCI is limited to allocating additional seats after taking into consideration the infrastructure in medical colleges across the State, the availability of faculty etc. Once the MCI allocated additional seats, it was not open for the MCI to direct the State-appellants to apply the policy of reservation in a particular way. The policy regarding reservations is framed by the State and the role of MCI is limited to maintaining the standards of education across the country."
Petitioners could not challenge the counselling as they participated in it without any demur or objection
The bench observed that the original writ petitioners had challenged the counseling process and non-inclusion of additional seats, only after sitting in the first round.
"It is not disputed that the petitioners participated in the first round of counselling. Having participated in the first round of counselling without raising any objection, it was not open for the petitioners to challenge the rules of the game at a belated stage," the bench observed.
It was also cognizant of the strict schedule for completing the admission process for courses in medical education, prescribed by the Apex Court in Ashish Ranjan & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., (2016) 11 SCC 225.
It concluded that the single judge "erred" in over-looking that the petitioners could not challenge the counselling as they participated in it without any demur or objection.
EWS reservation in each category not permissible
One of the directives issued by the single-Judge stipulated that EWS reservation shall be provided in each category, for future admissions.
The State had contended that the impugned judgment wrongly directed that EWS reservation would have to be given to SC, ST, OBC category candidates (which includes both creamy and non- creamy layer candidates); and it is contrary to Article 15 (6) of the Constitution of India.
Concurring with this submission, the division bench held,
"We are of the opinion that the learned single judge failed to interpret the plain language of Article 15(6) of the Constitution…
A bare perusal of Article 15(6) makes it clear that the reservations for EWS are in addition to the existing reservations, subject to a cap of 10%. Further, 15(6) (b) makes it clear that provisions for advancement of economically weaker sections can be made by the State other than the classes mentioned in Clause 4 (backward class of citizens) and 5 (a person professing a particular religion or belonging to a particular denomination). When the language of the Article is clear, it has to be interpreted literally and the interpretation as taken by the learned single judge goes against the plain language of Article 15(6). In our considered view, the learned single judge also failed to read Article 15(6) as a whole and merely relied on the expression "each category"."
50% Reservation Cap
The State had argued that the Single Judge had erred in directing that EWS reservation was to be given in each category to maintain the cap of 50% as reservations cannot exceed 50%.
The division bench observed that the issue regarding exceeding the 50% cap is "sub-judice" before the Supreme Court in a number of writ petitions, including Janhit Abhiyan v. Union of India.
"When the issues are pending before the Honourable Apex Court, it was not proper on part of the learned single judge to give finding on any of those issues including the issue regarding the 103rd constitutional amendment having the effect of permitting reservations over 50%," the bench remarked.
It clarified that since no interim stay order has been granted by the Apex Court, the State is free to proceed as per the plain language of Article 15(6).
Even though only a few students had approached the High Court regarding the cousnelling process, the single-Judge had treated the writ petitions as filed in a representative capacity. "The State Government is not expected to take umbrage under a specious plea that all the students have not approached the Court," he had held.
The State had challenged this decision, stating that the proceedings could not be extended to students who had not moved the High Court when there was no such pleading and when the mandatory procedure (for filing or defending a representative suit) prescribed under Order 1, Rule 8 CPC was not followed.
"For filing a representative suit or petition even under Article 226, the provisions contained in Order 1, Rule 8 of the CPC have to be followed as held in Km. Rashmi Mishra Versus M.P. Public Service Commission and others (2006) 12 Supreme Court cases 724."
Case Title: State of Rajasthan & Ors. v. Dr. Yogesh Kumar Saini & Ors. (and other connected appeals)
Case No.: Special Appeal Writ No. 396/2020
Quorum: Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta
Click Here To Read Judgment