Dismissing a writ petition, the High Court of Punjab & Haryana held that a candidate, who applied for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2019 examination from particular State, can seek admission in the State quota of any other State.
The State Government of Punjab had in its notifications of year 2017 and 2018 mentioned the inclusion of 'institutional reservation' from academic year 2019-20, for admission to MBBS/BDS courses in medical and dental institutions in the State of Punjab. Introduction of institutional quota implied reservation for only those candidates who had pursued secondary and senior secondary studies from the state itself. However, the said reservation was obliterated in the notification for the year 2019. Consequently, the students could only claim residential quota and students who had studied from schools outside the state of Punjab but were residents of the sate were eligible to claim reservation. Aggrieved by the same, the petitioner filed a writ in the nature of mandamus and argued on four broad contentions:
Firstly, the exclusion of institutional quota subjected the students of Punjab to unwarranted excessive competition.
Secondly, the state had earlier mentioned the inclusion of institutional quota and unnotified exclusion of the same attracted the doctrine of legitimate expectation.
Thirdly, it was contended that since the notification was issued after the declaration of results of NEET, the same amounted to change in rules of the game after the game has begun.
And lastly, it was submitted that a student who applied for the NEET 2019 examination from a particular State could not be permitted to seek admission in State quota seats in any other State.
The bench comprising Justice Daya Chaudhary and Justice Sudhir Mittal objectively dealt with each of the aforesaid contentions and held that the scheme of our Constitution is equality and its scope has been expanded by prescribing reservations. It is apparent from a plethora of precedents (Dr. Pradeep Jain v. Union of India, 1984 (3) SCC 654) that institutional reservation is permissible. However, whether such course of reservation is to be adopted or not, is within the domain of the State Government. The court cannot issue mandamus directing a state to provide the same. In fact, in post graduate medical courses, no such preference is provided.
Relying on the verdict in Nupur (minor) & Ors. v. Panjab University, Chandigarh, 1996 (1) RSJ, 576, the court held that an authority cannot be divested of its statutory power of policy making by the principle of legitimate expectation. Change of policy cannot be barred by invoking the doctrine as larger public interest is involved. Such principles are applicable to the commercial field.
The court also observed that the state cannot be indicted to have changed the game rules after the commencement of the game. The NEET exam was conducted and its results were declared by CBSE, a centralized agency for conducting national tests. Issuance of the notification for exam or the declaration of results did not commence admission process in the State of Punjab. Rather, admission commenced with the impugned notification.
Finally, it was held that nothing in the NEET 2019 information bulletin restricted a student of a particular State from seeking admission in the State quota of any other State. Further, no basis, in the form of precedents, was provided by the Petitioner in support of the said contention. Therefore, a candidate who applied for the NEET 2019 examination from one state is permitted to seek admission in the State quota of any other State.
Arguments for the Petitioner were advanced by Mr. I.P.S Kohli and for the Respondents by Sr. Advocate, Mr. Anupam Gupta.
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