The Madras High Court today quashed a Tamil Nadu government order reserving 85 per cent of MBBS and BDS seats to state board students and only 15 per cent for CBSE and other boards, holding that it amounted to discrimination among equals. Allowing petitions by some CBSE students challenging the June 22 G.O, Justice K Ravichandrababu held that the impugned reservation was bad in law and violated Article 14 of the Constitution (Equality before law).
“There is no difficulty for this court to come to the conclusion that the impugned reservation amounts to discrimination among equals and that it violates Art 14 of the Constitution of India. It is an arbitrary exercise of power that it is totally unreasonable that under the guise of level playing, it makes the equals unequals,” the Judge said in his order.
He also held that the reservation indirectly meddled with the object and process of the National Eligibility-cum- Entrance Test (NEET) and compromised on merits of selection.
It was not in dispute that NEET had been introduced by virtue of regulations made by the Medical Council of India and also by amending the Indian Medical Council Act 1956 stipulating that only merit in the all-India exam had to be considered for admission to medical courses, the Judge said. He directed authorities to prepare a fresh merit list and conduct the counselling for admissions accordingly.
Justice Ravichandrababu also observed that the impugned order seem to have been issued based on the recommendation of Additional Director (AD) of Medical Education, who is also the secretary of selection committee, without any discussion in the state cabinet.
“…it is evident that the policy decision as projected in the impugned GO seems to have been taken based on the proposal of the AD without there being any discussion by the cabinet to that effect,” the Judge said in his order.
He noted that certainly the AD was not competent to take policy decisions, which can be taken only by the government. The Judge said the court wanted to place on record and make it very clear that it was not against promotion of interest of students from rural background, especially those studying in state board schools.
“The court has every concern for their upliftment, but when such promotion and upliftment are sought to be achieved through some unlawful means, more particularly at the risk of causing grave discrimination among equals… the court cannot be a mute spectator,” he said.
The judge made it clear that his order was not confined to the petitioners alone and will apply to all students concerned. The court had on July 11 reserved orders on the petitions by Darnish Kumar, a student represented by his parents, and two others and ordered status quo on the admission process till the adjudication of the matter.
The state government had defended the G.O, saying the policy of the state government was not in favor of NEET, conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). More than 50 per cent of the questions in the NEET were based on the CBSE syllabus and hence there was an inequality in the all-India exam, it had contended.
Assailing the G.O, the petitioners had submitted that the Supreme court had clearly stated that when admission is based on entrance examination NEET, it should make no difference whether the qualifying examination was conducted by the state board or CBSE because no discrimination can be made between the schools affiliated to both the boards.
As per the earlier schedule, the merit list for medical courses was to be published today and the counselling to start on July 17.