Pronouncement of Order: OBC/EWS Res for PG NEET

OBC & EWS Reservation in Postgraduate Medical Admissions (PG NEET)

Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and A.S. Bopanna delivered a detailed Order stating the reasons for their earlier decision to allow EWS and OBC reservations in the 2021 admissions to postgraduate (PG) medical courses on January 20th, 2022. On January 7th, the Bench delivered a short and hurried Order stating this decision so that the Union government could begin PG admissions immediately to relieve overworked resident doctors who were protesting the delays in admitting new PG doctors. The counselling stage of PG admissions has since been completed. On January 20th, Justice Chandrachud read out some parts of the detailed Order which provides reasons for allowing OBC reservations in the All India Quota for PG medical admissions. 

Senior Advocate Shyam Divan previously argued on behalf of the candidates challenging OBC reservations that postgraduate admissions must be based on merit and not caste identity to ensure high quality of medical service. The Order states that it is erroneous to view merit through the narrow lens of marks in a competitive examination. Merit must account for the social, cultural and economic advantages that contribute to the performance of forward castes and classes in examinations. When viewed in social context, reservation is not at odds with merit but reconfigures it to advance equality. 

Mr. Divan had also argued that the All India Quota (AIQ), created by the Supreme Court in Pradeep Jain (1984), was meant to be an unreserved category. The Order clarifies that in Pradeep Jain, the Court envisioned AIQ to be a category free from domicile reservations only. In Dinesh Kumar (1986), the Court had clarified that reservations other than on the basis of domicile status were permissible within AIQ. The Court’s subsequent judgment disallowing AIQ reservations in  Buddhi Prakash Sharma (2005)  was erroneous. This had already been clarified in Abhay Nath (2009). Accordingly, Justice Chandrachud stated that this Order was restating the Abhay Nath judgment to hold that OBC reservations in AIQ were permissible. 

Mr. Divan’s argument that the Union government required permission from the Supreme Court before notifying any reservations in AIQ was also rejected. The Order states that reservations are a policy decision. Its constitutionality was open to judicial review, but the government need not seek permission to formulate reservation policies in AIQ. 

Chandrachud J did not read out the reasons for the Court’s decision on EWS reservations. The Order, expected to be published soon, will contain these reasons.