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NEET PG Admisssions : Supreme Court Directs Tamil Nadu Govt To Allot Students To CMC Vellore From Merit List Of Christian Students

Srishti Ojha
19 Jan 2022 10:31 AM GMT
NEET PG Admisssions : Supreme Court Directs Tamil Nadu Govt To Allot Students To CMC Vellore From Merit List Of Christian Students

The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday directed the State of Tamil Nadu to allot students for PG admissions to Christian Medical College Vellore for the academic year 2021-22 from the NEET merit list of students belonging to the Christian minority after counselling is conducted by the State Selection Committee. The Bench has clarified that the interim order has been passed...

The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday directed the State of Tamil Nadu to allot students for PG admissions to Christian Medical College Vellore for the academic year 2021-22 from the NEET merit list of students belonging to the Christian minority after counselling is conducted by the State Selection Committee. 

The Bench has clarified that the interim order has been passed in peculiar facts and circumstances of this case. 

"After considering submissions, we are of considered view that for present academic year 2021-2022 students shall be allotted for PG admissions by state government from the NEET merit list of students belonging to Christian minority to all the PG seats from the merit list after counselling is conducted by Selection Committee.

We make it clear that this order is passed in peculiar facts and circumstances of this case. In view of urgency, as this matter needs to be decided early, list this matter in March or April".

A bench comprising Justice Nageswara Rao and Justice BR Gavai issued the direction in a writ petition by Christian Medical College Association, Vellore, seeking the quashing of Selection Committee's letter whereby the State of Tamil Nadu sought to impose the state policy of reserving 50% of seats ("state quota") in its favour in the undergraduate and post-graduate degree courses in CMC College Vellore. 

The writ petition also sought direction to the respondents to not interfere with admissions of NEET qualified candidates to UG and PG courses in petitioner college for academic session 2021-22.

CMC said that presently, it admits students to 74% seats from students belonging to churches and organizations (minority network) from the merit list. Since 2018, the State has permitted to the institution to select students of minority network from the merit list.

The State pointed out that the institute can't admit students de hors merits& cannot admit only from their sub-sect of Christianity (Protestants).

Before passing the order, the Bench had asked Additional Advocate General Amit Anand Tiwari appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu to seek instructions as to whether the State would be willing to have an interim arrangement for this academic year, where a percent of seats could be allotted by the State and a certain percent by the Institution.

On instructions, the AAG had submitted that for PG admissions this year, the Institution can fill 30% of the seats from their community (Protestant sect of Christian Community) and 70% would be allotted by the State on basis of the NEET merit list.

However, after the College wasn't agreeable to the interim arrangement, the Bench went ahead with the hearing and passed the order

The Bench also clarified that it is not dealing with all submissions made by the Counsels and expressing any view that may be detrimental to either side during final hearing. 

For purpose of deciding whether an interim order as requested by petitioner needs to be passed, the Bench dealt with following submissions:

Submissions By Petitioners: 

Senior Advocate Shyam Divan on behalf of the petitioner submitted that CMC has been conducting admissions by taking students only after they have qualified NEET, and students are being admitted in petitioner's Institution after they have been recommended by Selection Committee. 

However, the petitioner follows a fair and transparent method of selecting students belonging to the Christian community, who have been sponsored after being accorded a geographical code. 

He stated that students sponsored by the Church from all over the country are given admissions after they go through counselling procedures and qualify NEET. This according to him shows that admissions are made according to merit. 

Mr Divan further submitted that from the past 3 years admissions were permitted in petitioner Institution for UG and PG courses through common counselling, for 74% of the seats in UG course and 70% of the PG course. He requested that the present practice may be continued in academic year 2021-22.

Mr Divan referred to a judgement of Madras High Court in case of Madha Engineering College wherein Section 2(c)(iii) of Tamil Nadu Admission in Professional Educational Institutions Act, 2006 was declared violative of Constitution of India. The section provides that 50% of seats in each brand of unaided professional institutions shall be filled up by the Government. He informed the bench that the Supreme Court has granted leave in the appeal filed by the State but has not stayed the judgment.  On basis of the judgement in Madha Engineering college which has not been stayed by the Supreme Court he stated that there cannot be a seat sharing between State of Tamil Nadu and petitioner Institution

Referring to judgements of the Supreme court in case of CMC Association vs UOI 2020, he submitted that the issue which arose for consideration in that case relates to permissibility of NEET to admission to PG courses. Certain paragraphs and observation in the judgement relating to minority were made with reference to aided institutions and cannot be put against the petitioner in deciding the dispute in this case

Submissions By State Of Tamil Nadu: 

Additional Advocate General Amit Anand Tiwari countered Mr Divan's submissions and argued that admissions to UG and PG courses are governed by Graduate Admissions Regulations 1997 and Post Graduate Regulations 2017. He referred to relevant portions of the said regulations, and submitted that admissions to UG and PG courses should be only on basis of merit in NEET exams. He also relied on judgement of the Supreme Court in Darus Salam case to submit that it is well settled that Government regulation is permissible in admissions to minority institutions as well.

He submitted on instructions that admissions to petitioner institution shall be made only from Christian Minority for academic year 2021-2022 from the NEET merits list after conducting counselling. However, he submitted that the selection of candidates from a particular sect of the Christian community, which has been the practice, is contrary to law and will not be permitted from 2020-2021. 

He admitted that from academic year 2018-19, students were nominated by the petitioner from a particular sect from same religion and were granted admission. The State realised that such students who were nominated by petitioner Institution are lower in merit as compared to other students from Christian minority who have secured higher marks but couldn't be granted admissions.

Courtroom Exchange: 

During the hearing, AAG Amit Anand Tiwari for the State of Tamil Nadu submitted that the petitioner wants that the NEET marks should be only qualifying marks and shouldn't form basis of determining merit inter se between students. However, the same is not the position in law today.

The Bench however observed that in the last academic year, the Institution had been permitted to admit candidates

"In respect of last academic year, how were admissions made to PG courses with respect to this institution? It is stated in affidavit that 2018-19 onwards Petitioner has been admitting NEET qualified candidates through common counselling done by selection committee. The Petitioner institution had been permitted to admit candidates . How does this work, if counselling was done by selection committee, what leverage does institution have in selecting persons belonging to their own fate, as said by Mr Divan?" the Bench asked

Mr Tiwari submitted that "the Institution recommended names and said these are candidates which they have received from their networks and asked to select them. Their recommendations were accepted, and all of them were dehors common merit list. Names were sent to Universities and it was approved."

Mr Tiwari submitted that NEET prescribes that there will be an All India merit list and a State merit list. Even in the state merits list, NEET further prescribes there will be separate merit list for minorities, each religious denomination and also one for reserved categories.

"The process you followed last year, was based on a list sent by them, not really on merit, to the extent of 70%. The other 30% was on merit", the Bench said

"No, it is not that the rest comes to us. 70% is their own minority network, then there's institutional preference, then there's centre's recommendation and then something else. Last year 10 students were from General category, perhaps they were from normal merit list, the rest recommendations came from them", Tiwari said

The Bench then suggested that for purpose of an interim order, with reference to the PG admissions that are to take place immediately, the State can follow last year's method of 70% and 30% will be given to it from general list where they can recommend candidates.

" Can we do that? Can we make a departure for CMC Vellore while for other Institutions we will follow NEET regulations. That will be completely contrary to the regulatory framework and prior judgements", Tiwari said.

" You have to keep in mind, there's a judgement of Justice AP Shah in 2007 which is against you, where the provision regarding seat sharing of 50-50 was struck down. That appeal is pending", the Bench said referring to Madha Engineering College verdict.

The Bench then asked the State Counsel as to why the procedure followed last year can't be followed this year. AAG Tiwari responded saying that the State can't permit them to do something which is not permissible in law

" Why did you permit it before then?" the Bench asked 

"I made a mistake, should we repeat it? We have said we will not allow this mistake to perpetuate, and as State i can take that decision." AAG said

The Bench said "the point that you are making is- whether petitioner should be permitted to make admissions on basis of its choice of sect of Christians without following NEET merit. You say post the regulations they don't permit you to do that."

" My submission is de hors the NEET regulation, no admissions can take place", AAG said

Referring to the Graduate admissions Regulations, Mr Tiwari submitted that reading of these regulations make it clear that you can't have any other merit list or criteria but the marks. The petitioners are suggesting it has to be according to their choice.

In response to Mr Tiwari's submissions that majority students in the institute come from outside, the Bench said 'you have to see the object work of this Institution, it brings such good name to your state, it has been in existence for 100 years. The human service is done by doctors from this Institution to the entire country"

Petition Details:

The Association has argued that the purported imposition of the state quota on the Petitioner Institution is constitutionally impermissible as it is violative of the Petitioner's rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19(1)(g), 25, 26 and 30(1) of the Constitution as well as the Constitution bench judgments of Supreme Court in the P.A. Inamdar case (7 judges) and Pramati Educational case (5 judges).

Therefore, the Petitioner has submitted that its right guaranteed under Article 30(1) of the Constitution of India to admit students of its choice be preserved in line with the several interim orders passed by Supreme Court over a period of time and the several decisions reiterating the rights of Minority Unaided Institutions

The petitioner has argued that its Institution's right to admit the students of their choice selected from the NEET list to its undergraduate and postgraduate courses deserves to be protected and ought not to be interfered with.

The petition has also stated that over a period of 20 years i.e. from 1993 to 2013 the Supreme Court as well as the Madras High Court, in view of the unique nature of the Institution, has permitted the Institution to admit students as per its own admission procedure for its under-graduate, post-graduate and allied medical courses, which they have been following since the past several decades.

The impugned letter was issued after the petitioner Association received a letter from the Selection Committee in October last year, inviting the Dean/Principal of the Petitioner College to attend a meeting on 01.11.2021 to discuss about the seat sharing between government quota and Management Quota (Minority Quota) for selection and admission of candidates to PG/MBBS degree Course

The Petitioner College had then sent a letter to the Committee requesting to continue the process of selection happening post implementation of NEET.

The petitioner has submitted that the selection of the students for admission to the undergraduate courses in CMC, was previously done on the basis of an All India Entrance Test ( replaced by NEET in the year 2017), followed by a method of Counseling that includes special tests and indepth interviews

It has been further stated that after the introduction of common counselling in the year 2017, the Institution had been permitted to select candidates for both the undergraduate and post graduate courses exclusively on the basis of NEET scores obtained by the candidates.

"The State Selection Committee has, from the academic year 2018 onwards, permitted the Institution to select students in the minority network category from the merit list of such category thus preserving and protecting the Institution's identity as a Minority Institution" the plea states

The petition has stated that the selection procedure being adopted by the College was subjected to judicial scrutiny by the Madras High Court and the same was upheld by judgment dated 13.02.2007.

Case Title: Christian Medical College Association, Vellore vs State of Tamil Nadu & Ors | WP(c) 8/2022

Click Here To Read/Download Order

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