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NEET-SS| States Competent To Provide In-Service Quota In Super Speciality Medical Courses : Supreme Court's Prima Facie View

Sohini Chowdhury
17 March 2022 7:16 AM GMT
NEET-SS| States Competent To Provide In-Service Quota In Super Speciality Medical Courses : Supreme Courts Prima Facie View
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The Supreme Court has expressed a prima facie view that States are competent to provide reservation for in-service doctors in super-speciality medical courses.Observing so, the Court refused to stay the G.O. dated 07.11.2020 issued in the State of Tamil Nadu purporting to reserve 50% seats at the Super Specialty level in Government Medical Colleges to in-service doctors. The Apex...

The Supreme Court has expressed a prima facie view that States are competent to provide reservation for in-service doctors in super-speciality medical courses.

Observing so, the Court refused to stay the G.O. dated 07.11.2020 issued in the State of Tamil Nadu purporting to reserve 50% seats at the Super Specialty level in Government Medical Colleges to in-service doctors. The Apex Court clarified that it has passed the present interim order on prima facie considerations as it is yet to decide the issue in the main matter on merits.

"We further clarify that the present order is being passed only on prima facie considerations."

The Apex Court vide order dated 27.11.2020 had granted interim relief for the academic year 2020-2021 directing the counselling for NEET-SS 2020-2021 to proceed without provision for reservation to in-service doctors in Super Speciality courses.

On prima facie consideration, a Bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai noted that the present case is covered by the Constitutional Bench judgment in Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association AndOrs. v. Union of India And Ors. (2021) 6 SCC 568, which held that it is within the competence of the State Legislature to provide a separate channel/source of entry or reservation for in-­service candidates seeking admission to postgraduate degree/diploma medical courses.

In the Tamil Nadu Medical Officers case, the Supreme Court had upheld the power of the States to provide reservation in PG Courses. The petitioners relied on Dr.Preeti Srivastava case which disapproved reservations in super-speciality levels.

The Bench preferred to follow the Tamil Nadu Medical Officers case :

"34. As such, we find that the facts in the present case are much nearer to the facts that fell for consideration in the case of Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association (supra). We are also of the prima facie view that the facts that fell for consideration in the case of Dr. Preeti Srivastava (supra) were distinct from the facts that fall for consideration in the present case. We are, therefore, of the considered view that taking into consideration the principles of judicial discipline and judicial propriety, we should be guided by the judgment of the Constitution Bench in the case of Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association (supra) rather than the judgment of the Constitution Bench in the case of Dr. Preeti Srivastava (supra)."

Contentions raised by the petitioners

Senior Advocates, Mr. Dushyant Dave, Mr. Shyam Divan and Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan appearing on behalf of the petitioners submitted that the Apex Court in Indra Sawhney And Ors. v. Union of India And Ors. 1992 Supp. (3) SCC 217 and in Dr. Preeti Srivastava And Anr. v. State of MP And Ors. (1999) 7 SCC 120 had specifically held that there is no reservation in Super Speciality courses. It was asserted that merit alone should be considered for admission to Super Specialty courses. They relied on Clause 10.10 of the NEET-SS 2021 Information Bulletin, which states that, as per judgment of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (C) No.350 of 1998, there is no reservation of seats for Super Specialty (DM/M.Ch.) courses. It was submitted that matters pertaining to determination of standards in institutions for higher education or research and scientific and technical institutions are squarely covered under Item 66 in List­ I of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. Therefore, they argued that the Regulation issued by the National Medical Commission (erstwhile Medical Council of India) would prevail over the State G.O. Arguments were made assailing the finding in Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association (supra) that States have legislative competence and authority to provide reservation for in­-service candidates. Moreover, it was submitted that Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association (supra) was restricted to postgraduate/diploma courses. Additional Solicitor General, Ms. Aishwarya Bhati appearing for the Union Government also sought for continuation of the interim relief granted by the order dated 27.11.2020.

Contention raised by the respondents

Senior Advocate, Mr. C.S. Vaidyanathan appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu submitted that in the case of Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association (supra), the Apex Court has specifically held that the State is competent to provide reservation for in­-service candidates. He pointed out that due to non-availability of candidates with degree in Super Specialisation, there are 49 unfilled vacancies for the post of Professors/Associate Professors and 58 unfilled vacancies for the posts of Assistant Professor. It was argued that the provision for separate sources of entry to in-service doctors, so made, would facilitate the filling up of such vacancies. He expressed concern that a large number of Super Speciality seats can be reduced on account of non-availability of adequate facility members. It was highlighted that non-service candidates tend to leave after the bond period of two years or even prior by paying the bond amount. Advocate, Mr. Amit Anand Tiwari appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu submitted that the Union Government itself provides for separate entry for in-service candidates in the name of 'sponsored candidates'. Thus, it should refrain from taking a contrary stand in the present petitions.

Decision of the Supreme Court

The Bench noted that unlike last year, in the current academic year the concerned G.O. was notified prior to the commencement of the admission process. The Counsels for the petitioners relied on the Constitution Bench judgment in Dr. Pretti Srivastava (supra) whereas the Counsels for the respondent relied on the Constitution Bench judgment in Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association (supra). The Bench observed -

"It will not be out of place to mention that this Bench is sitting in a combination of two Judges. Strong reliance has been placed on behalf of the writ petitioners/appellants on the Constitution Bench judgment in the case of Dr. Preeti Srivastava (supra). With equal vehemence, reliance is placed by the State of Tamil Nadu and the in­service candidates/doctors on the Constitution Bench judgment in the case of Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association (supra). As such, we are faced with a challenge as to which of these two Constitution Bench judgments should guide us while considering the question, as to whether the interim protection as was granted for the academic year 2020­2021 also needs to be continued or not for the academic year 2021­2022."

A distinction was drawn between the present matter and the decision in Dr. Preeti Srivastava (supra), wherein the Court had held that the lowering minimum qualifying marks for reserved category candidates would not be permissible. It did not deal with reservation or a separate channel for admission of in-service candidates.

The Bench noted that in Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association (supra), the question before the Court was whether the State was competent to provide reservation by a separate channel for in­service candidates seeking admission to postgraduate degree/diploma medical courses was permissible. Insofar as admission to post graduate courses, it had answered in the affirmative.

Relying on the Constitution Bench judgment in Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association (supra), the Bench decided against continuing the interim relief granted for the academic yeast 2020-2021.

"35. We are, therefore, of the view that no case is made out for continuing the interim protection which was granted for the academic year 2020­2021 vide interim order dated 27th November, 2020 (supra) and thus, we reject the prayer in that regard. Needless to say that the State of Tamil Nadu would be at liberty to continue the counselling for academic year 2021­ 2022 by taking into consideration the reservation provided by it as per the said G.O."

[Case Title: N. Karthikeyan And Ors. v. State of Tamil Nadu And Ors. WP(C) No. 53 of 2022]

Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 294

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment



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