19 Oct 2022 10:31 AM GMT
In a plea challenging 20% in-service reservation in Post-Graduate Medical Admission in Maharashtra, the Supreme Court, on Wednesday, after briefly hearing submissions adjourned it till 20th October, 2022 (tomorrow). The Special Leave Petition impugns an order of the Bombay High Court which affirmed the reservation recognised for in-service candidates to be implemented from the academic...
In a plea challenging 20% in-service reservation in Post-Graduate Medical Admission in Maharashtra, the Supreme Court, on Wednesday, after briefly hearing submissions adjourned it till 20th October, 2022 (tomorrow). The Special Leave Petition impugns an order of the Bombay High Court which affirmed the reservation recognised for in-service candidates to be implemented from the academic year 2022-2023.
As it was a fresh matter and Advocate, Mr. Siddharth Abhay Dharmadhikari, appearing on behalf of the State of Maharashtra did not have the opportunity to look at the petition and the allied documents, a Bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Hima Kolhi thought it fit to stand over the matter for a day.
Senior Advocate, Mr. Anand Grover appearing on behalf of the petitioners submitted that the reservation for in-service candidates was introduced in midstream in the teeth of the judgment of the Apex Court which held that the rules of the game cannot be changed once the process has been initiated.
"There is no reservation for in-service candidates till the notification in September in NEET-PG programmes. For the first time they introduced this category for 20% in-service…You cannot change the procedure and rule during the course of the process."
Justice Chandrachud remarked, "You have to protect in-service candidates also."
Mr. Grover did not object to the same, but contended that the policy of in-service reservation should be made applicable prospectively i.e. from the next year.
"Do it prospectively. I don't have any problem. It should not apply to this year."
Out of 1416 seats in the State, 282 seats were reserved for in-service candidates. The Bench was apprised that 69 candidates had written the examination, out of which 52 qualified for admission in the first round of counselling.
Justice Chandrachud noted that instead of sending the remaining seats to the mop-up round, the Bombay High Court had, in fact, directed the State to consider if the seats can be made available for the second round of counselling . He was of the opinion that the High Court has done so, realising that if the seats are moved to the mop up round, then less meritorious students will get in.
"The High Court has directed the State to consider if these seats can be made available for the second round."
The Judge asked Mr. Dharmadhikari who was present in the court to seek instruction from the concerned authority about the steps taken by the State pursuant to the order of the High Court.
Appearing before the Bench, after the lunch break, with the requisite instruction, Mr. Dharmadhikari submitted that the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India has lowered the cut-off marks by a notification dated 17.10.2022. He said that in view of the said notification, a few more in-service candidates may become eligible for admission. He added that 'after that whatever seats remain can be made available in the second round'.
Mr. Grover informed the Bench that till September, 2022, a 30% weightage in marks was granted to the in-service candidates, thereafter in its lieu '20% absolute reservation' was introduced.
He beseeched the indulgence of the Bench to interfere with the impugned order of the Bombay High Court, suggesting that the in-service candidates have been provisionally admitted and everything is at the initial stage.
However, Justice Chandrachud did not seem to be inclined to interfere with the admission of the in-service candidates made pursuant to the first round of counselling.
"In law we would have been with you, that prima facie they have changed the rules of the game in midstream. Once a prospectus is issued you cannot change. But sitting in A.136 we also have to see the interest of the society. See, who are they (Govt) reserving for? After all, these are people serving in Govt hospitals, serving the poorest of the society, who cannot go to private hospitals. If the Govt. is doing something for them should the Supreme Court interfere with that."
Mr. Grover emphasised that they 'already had a 30% weightage' prior to the reservation. Justice Chandrachud indicated that the 30% weightage in marks granted to the in-service candidates would have been more detrimental for the petitioners.
"Now instead of 30% they are reserving. I will tell you one thing, if they give weightage it is worse than reserving. I will tell you why. In these competitive exams every one mark makes a difference. Earlier they were giving 30% incentive marks. Now, instead they have come up with a 20% reservation where the best of the in-service candidates will compete."
Mr. Grover vehemently reiterated that, "In the middle of the course, they cannot change rules."
Acknowledging that the change in the rule of the game midstream is the real issue for consideration, Justice Chandrachud assured him that the Bench would hear the State Counsel on this issue tomorrow. He asked Mr. Dharmadhikari to apprise the Bench on the said issue.
[Case Title: Nipun Tawari And Ors. v. State of Maharashtra And Ors. SLP(C) No. 18616/2022]
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