Some weightage marks given to eligible in-service candidate linked to performance in NEET and also the length of service in remote and/or difficult areas in the State by no standard can be said to be excessive, unreasonable or irrational, said the bench.
The Supreme Court of India has upheld the Allahabad High Court Judgment which quashed the Government notification enabling the State Government to reserve 30% seats for in-service candidates for pursuing post-graduate degree courses. But the Court held that some weightage marks given to eligible in-service candidate linked to performance in NEET and also the length of service in remote and/or difficult areas in the State by no standard can be said to be excessive, unreasonable or irrational
The Bench comprising Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Dr.D.Y.Chandrachud was hearing appeals from two Allahabad High Court Judgments and a Writ Petition praying for a declaration that the third Proviso to Regulation 9(2) of the Post Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 2000 is unconstitutional and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution; and for a direction against the Authorities to refrain from disturbing the selection of the said writ petitioners or to interfere with their Post Graduate studies which they are presently pursuing.
In the Petitions, the Allahabad High Court was primarily required to consider the question as to whether the in-service Medical Officers in the State of Uttar Pradesh who had working experience (in areas other than remote and difficult areas), could also be treated as eligible for admission against the reserved 30% quota for in-service candidates in Post Graduate Degree Courses. While considering this issue, the High Court, in the context of Regulation 9, noticed that there was no provision in The Indian Medical Council Act, 1956
The High Court proceeded to quash the Government Notification and directed that admissions to Post Graduate “Degree” Courses be proceeded strictly on merits amongst the candidates who have obtained requisite minimum marks in the common entrance examination in question. It also noted that as per Regulation 9, at best, the in-service candidates who have worked in remote and difficult areas in the State, as notified by the State Government/Competent Authority from time to time, alone would be eligible for weightage of marks as incentive at the rate of 10% of the marks obtained for each year of service in such areas upto the maximum of 30% marks obtained in National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test.
The Supreme Court observed that Regulation 9(2) specifically deals with the process of “determining the academic merit” of the eligible candidates. Indeed, the primary consideration for determining the academic merit of the candidates is the marks obtained by the respective candidates in the common competitive test or centralized competitive test held by the concerned Authority. This Regulation does not envisage reservation of seats for the Post Graduate “Degree” Courses, unlike the express provision which is made in the same Regulation to provide reservation of seats for in-service candidates in “Diploma” courses.
“The Central Enactment and the Regulations framed there under do not provide for reservation for in-service candidates in Post Graduate “Degree” Courses. As there is no express provision prohibiting reservation to in-service candidates in respect of admission to Post Graduate “Degree” Courses, it was contended that providing for such reservation by the State Government is not impermissible in law. The admission process in the present case is governed by the Regulations which have come into force from Academic Year 2013-14. This Regulation is a self-contained Code. There is nothing in this Regulation to even remotely indicate that a separate channel for admission to in-service candidates must be provided, at least in respect of Post Graduate “Degree” Courses. In contradistinction, however, 50% seats are earmarked for the Post Graduate “Diploma” Courses for in-service candidates, as is discernible from Clause (VII). If the Regulation intended a similar separate channel for in-service candidates even in respect of Post Graduate “Degree” Courses, that position would have been made clear in Regulation 9 itself. In absence thereof, it must be presumed that a separate channel for in-service candidates is not permissible for admission to Post Graduate “Degree” Courses. Thus, the State Government, in law, had no authority to issue a Government Order such as dated 28th February 2014, to provide to the contrary. Hence, the High Court was fully justified in setting aside the said Government Order”, said the Bench.
Weightage of marks assigned to in-service candidates
The Bench has also examined that question whether the norm specified in Regulation 9 regarding incentive marks can be termed as excessive and unreasonable?
In answer to the above question the Bench held that
“The real effect of Regulation 9 is to assign specified marks commensurate with the length of service rendered by the candidate in notified remote and difficult areas in the State linked to the marks obtained in NEET. That is a procedure prescribed in the Regulation for determining merit of the candidates for admission to the Post Graduate “Degree” Courses for a single State. This serves a dual purpose. Firstly, the fresh qualified Doctors will be attracted to opt for rural service, as later they would stand a good chance to get admission to Post Graduate “Degree” Courses of their choice. Secondly, the Rural Health Care Units run by the Public Authority would be benefitted by Doctors willing to work in notified rural or difficult areas in the State. In our view, a Regulation such as this subserves larger public interest”.
Upholding the Proviso, the Bench held as follows:
“Accordingly, some weightage marks given to eligible in-service candidate linked to performance in NEET and also the length of service in remote and/or difficult areas in the State by no standard can be said to be excessive, unreasonable or irrational. This provision has been brought into force in larger public interest and not merely to provide institutional preference or for that matter to create separate channel for the in-service candidate, much less reservation. It is unfathomable as to how such a provision can be said to be unreasonable or irrational”.
The last question considered by the Court is whether the above arrangement should have prospective effect or also apply to admissions for academic year 2015-16.
To this question, the Bench has given the answer as follows:
“Ordinarily, as the subject matter of challenge before the High Court was pertaining to Academic Year 2015-16, the dispensation directed in terms of Order dated 12th May 2016 should apply thereto. However, considering the fact that the said admission process has been completed and all concerned have acted upon on that basis and that the candidates admitted to the respective Post Graduate Degree Courses in the concerned colleges have also commenced their studies, it may not be appropriate to unsettle that position given the fact that neither the direct candidates nor the eligible in-service candidates who had worked in remote and/or difficult areas in the State approached the Court for such relief. It is only the in-service candidates who had not worked in remote and/or difficult areas in the State approached the Court for equating them with their counterparts who had worked in remote and/or difficult areas in the matter of reservation of seats for in-service candidates. If at this distance of time, the settled admissions were to be disturbed by quashing the entire admission process for Academic Year 2015-16, it would inevitably result in all the seats in the State almost over 500 in number remaining unfilled for one academic year; and that the candidates to be admitted on the basis of fresh list for Academic Year 2015-16 will have to take fresh admission coinciding with the admissions for Academic Year 2016-17. That would necessitate doubling the strength of seats in the respective colleges for the current Academic Year to accommodate all those students, which may not be feasible and is avoidable. In the peculiar facts on hand, we may instead mould the relief in the appeals before us by directing all concerned to follow the admission process for Academic Year 2016-17 and onwards strictly in conformity with the Regulations in force, governing the procedure for selection of candidates for Post Graduate Medical Degree Courses and including determination of relative merit of the candidates who had appeared in NEET by giving weightage of incentive marks to eligible in-service candidates”.
Read the Judgment here.