A ruling by the Madras High Court regarding admissions to medical seats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry under the All India Quota (AIQ) could have national ramifications. Although the order is only regarding sorting out reservations in these two states, as the court has directed the Centre and Medical Council of India to jointly decide the formula with Tamil Nadu, it is likely that ultimately, the formula could extend across the country.
The high court directed the Central and Tamil Nadu governments, the Medical and Dental Councils of India to form a committee to provide the terms of implementing Other Backward Caste (OBC) reservation in AIQ seats in undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses that the state contributes to the national pool. It has directed that the committee come up with these terms, preferably, within three months.
The court has also said that these terms will be implemented with “regard to courses that are to be run in future and not in the present academic year, as that would disturb the entire selections that have already been set into motion and are likely to be concluded under the existing scheme.” The judges were disposing of a batch of 13 writ petitions, including one by senior counsel and Rajya Sabha member P. Wilson, that sought reservations in medical seats given to the central pool for admissions.
The ruling added that any of the parties to the case could approach the apex court for clarification. “But the directions given herein shall be complied with and the decision with regard to the implementation of the percentage of reservation that may be offered ...may be announced by the Central Government preferably within three months,” it says.
The Centre will have to fix the reservations into the AIQ seats not just for TN/Puducherry, but also standardise them for the entire nation. Every state, however, has its own reservation policy. And given that these seats are in colleges that are funded by the states, will the AIQ have to follow different reservation policies for the different states?
A bench of the Madras high court, comprising A.P. Sahi and Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy noted that major political parties within the state and some individual candidates seeking admission regarding reservations for the OBC seats in the AIQ given by the state to the central pool in medical courses were in this legal battle.
“This is a unique litigation where the state government in power in Tamil Nadu has also joined hands on equal footing with the other petitioners to press forward the implementation of such reservation,” the judges observed. “All 13 writ petitions before us broadly raise one issue, namely, that of non-implementation of the policy and percentage of reservation for OBC in the state of Tamil Nadu and Union Territory of Puducherry, to the extent as provided for—69 per cent (50 per cent for OBC and 19 per cent for SC/ST categories in Tamil Nadu and 50 per cent (34 per cent for OBC and 16 per cent for SC/ST in Puducherry) to such of the seats in the UG as well as PG courses of recognised state-run medical institutions within the above territories, contributed towards of the AIQ pool by the state,” the bench said.
The petitioners largely alleged that the MCI and Union of India had not taken steps to extend the benefit of this reservation in the AIQ seats contributed/surrendered by the state, despite provisions for the same. They alleged that the AIQ seats are filled by the Director General of Health Services of the Central government, but that the authority was bound to implement state reservations while making allocations, which it was not doing. Since these were colleges funded by the state, the reservation policy of the states needed to be implemented.
Explaining the genesis of the dispute between the state and centre, the court said that the AIQ was introduced since there was an inequality in medical seats across the country and the AIQ helped students from state with less developed infrastructure to get a seat elsewhere. However, there has been much litigation regarding the reservations applicable to fill in the AIQ seats. The court noted that since medication admissions now have a common entrance exam, the NEET, the point of merit has already been taken care of and reassertions for OBC candidates will not affect the question of merit.