The Supreme Court will decide whether the reservation for students from the Other Backward Classes and Economically Weaker Sections in the All India Quota for medical institutions is unconstitutional.
Prior to 1986, several State Governments reserved a proportion of seats in medical colleges for students domiciled in that State. In 1986, the Supreme Court held that the quota in State Government medical colleges for domicile students should not exceed 70% for undergraduate (UG) and 50% for postgraduate (PG).
This prompted the creation of the All India Quota (AIQ), which provides domicile-free, merit-based opportunities to medical students.
In 1986, the Court accepted the Union’s suggestion to reduce AIQ seats to 15% for UG courses and 50% of PG courses. In 2003, the Court reiterated that the Government had no obligation to provide reservation in AIQ seats in three separate judgments. Then, in Abhay Nath v University of Delhi (2006), the Supreme Court held that 22.5% reservation (15% for Scheduled Castes and 7.5% for Scheduled Tribes) should be included in AIQ.
While most State Government colleges have reservations for students from the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) for admissions under the State quota, this reservation did not apply to those falling under the AIQ. Many States, particularly Tamil Nadu took issue with this. They demanded the implementation of OBC student reservations within the AIQ as well.
On July 29th 2021, the National Testing Agency issued an admissions notice providing for 27% reservation for OBC students and 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) students admitted under the AIQ, for both UG and PG medical courses.
Four writ petitions were filed challenging the AIQ scheme by doctors and students who wish to appear for NEET (the National Entrance-cum-Eligibility Test) under the AIQ. The petitioners argue that the 2021 Admissions Notice violates their fundamental rights, and amounts to ‘reverse discrimination’. They argue that the added reservation on the AIQ crosses the 50% limit on reservations laid down in Indra Sawhney v Union of India (1992). They also argue that the Court’s decision in Abhay Nath v University of Delhi ignores its past rulings on the question of reservation in the AIQ scheme.
The petitioners note that the challenge to the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019, is still pending before the Supreme Court. That petition challenges the introduction of a new category of reservation like EWS, enabling reservations in higher education and public employment on the basis of economic status. The petitioners also argue that the annual income limit of 8 lakhs as a criteria to determine EWS status is arbitrary.
1. Is the criteria for availing reservations under the EWS arbitrary?
2. Does the provision of reservations which exceeds 50%, with the introduction of OBC and EWS reservations, violate the 50% limit on reservations set in Indra Sawhney?
3. Should the Court stay the provision of reservations for EWS until a Constitution Bench decides on its constitutional validity?
4. Does the provision of reservations for OBCs within the AIQ for NEET violate their fundamental rights under the Constitution?