“We are of the view that no case is made out for continuing the interim protection which was granted for the academic year 2020-2021 by an interim order dated 27.11.2020. Thus we reject the prayer in that regard. Needless to say, the State of TN would be at the liberty to continue counseling for the academic year 2021-2022 by taking into consideration the reservation provided by the State. List the matters for hearing after vacation”.
On Wednesday, The Supreme Court granted Tamil Nadu’s request to adopt a 50% reservation for in-service doctor specialty courses in NEET-SS admissions for the academic year 2021-2022. The interim order was issued in 2020 to stop the implementation of quota in SS seats was vacated by a bench consisting of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai. The bench stated in its ruling issued today that there is no compelling reason to extend the temporary protection provided in 2020.
Last year, a comprising raised by Justices L. Nageshwara Rao, Hemant Gupta, and Ajay Rastogi issued an order on November 27, 2020, directing the counseling for admission to Super Specialty Medical Courses for the academic year 2020-21 proceed without giving reservation for in-service doctors. It had indicated unequivocally that the judgment would only apply to the admissions process for the academic year 2020-21.
The order dated November 27, 2020, was issued in a case in which the petitioners, who were post-graduate degree holders in Medicine and qualified for admission to Super Specialty Medical Courses for the academic year 2020-2021, challenged a Kerala High Court order directing the implementation of the reservation to 40% of seats in Super Specialty Medical Courses for in-service doctors before the Apex Court. Another set of petitions has been filed in Tamil Nadu, contesting the state’s 50 percent quota for in-service doctors at the Super Specialty level in government medical colleges. Because the admission process for the academic year 2020-2021 had already begun, the State of Kerala filed an affidavit with the Supreme Court claiming that it might not be possible to execute the reservations for in-service applicants for the academic year 2020-2021.
The three-judge panel noted that the application process for Super Specialty Medical Courses began on August 3, 2020, and that candidates were advised that there would be no reservations for Super Specialty courses. On November 7, 2020, the Tamil Nadu government issued an order reserving 50% of seats for in-service doctors. The Bench had then specifically considered that, because the admissions procedure was nearing completion, reservation for in-service doctors for the academic year 2020-2021 would be impossible. The NEET-SS 2021 Bulletin was published on November 1, 2021.
Senior Advocates, Mr. Dushyant Dave, Mr. Shyam Divan, and Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan appearing for the petitioners submitted that their case was covered by a series of Constitution Bench judgments of the Apex Court, which had clarified that there is no reservation in Super Specialty Courses when comprising comprised of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai heard the matters for interim relief on 14.03.2022. Ms. Aishwarya Bhati, the Additional Solicitor General, argued against reservation as well.
Senior Advocates Mr. C.S. Vaidyanathan and Mr. P. Wilson, representing the State and in-service doctors, respectively, argued in light of the Constitution Bench judgment in Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association v. Union of India 2021, in which the Apex Court upheld the power of States to enact special provisions for in-service doctors’ admissions to medical courses, including post-graduate courses.
The petitioners’ counsels pointed out that the decision in Tamil Nadu Medical Officer Association (supra) was limited to Post-graduate courses, whereas the respondents’ counsels argued that Preeti Srivastava (supra) was concerned with the relaxation of marks for reserved categories, not in-service candidates or admission.
Mr. Amit Anand Tiwari, an advocate for the State, brought up a practical issue. He claimed that non-service applicants do not honor their oaths; once admitted to the Super Specialty Courses, they leave their responsibilities to the state. As a result, due to a shortage of doctors, the state is unable to maintain institutions and hospitals. He suggested that the specific provision for in-service applicants serves a wider purpose in light of this.
CASE LAW: N. Karthikeyan and Ors. V. State of Tamil Nadu, No. 53 of 2022
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