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Allocating 7.5% Of Medical Seats To Govt School Students Is Not A Matter Of Reservation, But Of Institutional Preference: Tamil Nadu To Madras High Court

By Komal Kinger      24 March, 2022 02:54 AM      0 Comments
Allocating Medical Seats To Govt School Students Tamil Nadu To Madras High Court

The State Higher Education Department argued that the State Act enabling horizontal reservation of 7.5 percent seats in medical colleges for students graduating from government schools could not be considered "community reservation" in a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

Senior Counsel P. Wilson argued in written submissions to the Court  that the allocation of 7.5 percent seats for students from Government Schools is not a "reservation," but rather a "source of admission" for which the state is empowered under Entry 25, List Ill of the Constitution's Seventh Schedule.

NOT COMMUNAL RESERVATION

Only Government Schools and Private Schools are classified under Sections 2(c) and 2(h) of the impugned Act.[1]

“These two categorizations are separate sources of entry/admissions into the various government seats to be filled up in various Medical institutions in the State. Out of two sources, one such source is the government schools which is given with 7.5% preferential admissions”, it is stated therein.

In Katra Educational Society v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors., the counsel argued that such classification of separate sources of entry/admission is based on an intelligible differentiation (1966). 

Furthermore, the Supreme Court judgements in K. Duraiswamy v. State of Tamilnadu[2]  and State of Madhya Pradesh v. Gopal D. Tirthani and Ors [3]were mentioned to explain  that such preferential treatment for Post Graduate In-Service Candidates had been approved by the supreme court.

In K. Duraiswamy, the apex court had noted as below:

“...That apart where the scheme envisaged is not by way of a mere reservation but is one of classification of the sources from which admissions have to be accorded, fixation of respective quota for such classified groups, the principles at times applied in construing provisions relating to reservation simpliciter will have no relevance or application Though the prescription of a quota may involve in a general sense reservation in favour of the particular class or category in whose favour a quota is fixed, the concepts of reservation and fixation of quota drastically differ in their purport and content as well as the object...”

Senior Counsel went on to say that in Tamil Nadu Medical Officer Association v. Union of India, [4]the constitutional bench approved both of these decisions.

WHAT IS HORIZONTAL ALLOTMENT IS INSTITUTIONAL PREFERENCE

Mr. P. Wilson then contended that the 7.5 percent allotment can also be equivalent to an institutional preference for which the Government has discretion, as stated in the Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association Constitutional Bench decision.

In the above case, the court had noted as below:

“Thus, in the exercise of powers under Entry 66 List I, the Union cannot provide for anything with respect to in reservation/percentage of reservation and/or even mode of admission within the State quota, which powers are conferred upon the States under Entry 25 of List III. In exercise of powers under Entry 25 List III, the States have power to make provision for mode of admissions, looking  to the requirements and/or need in the State concerned. However, considering the plethora of decisions of this Court, referred to hereinabove, this Court has again held that institutional preference is permissible and even the introduction of NEET would not affect the institutional preference This Court has noted that institutional preference up to 50% seats is permissible."

According to the counsel, government schools can be carved as a separate institution and given institutional preference, including 7.5 percent seats, based on the aforesaid judgement.

POWERS UNDER ENTRY 25 LIST III

Mr Wilson then went into detail about the constitutional powers conferred on the state under Entry 25 List III of the Constitution. The case of Modern Dental College & Res.Cen. &... vs State Of Madhya Pradesh & Ors on 2 May, 2016 [5]established the state's power to regulate admissions.

In Modern Dental College, the court had observed that:

“In fact, the State Government should be the sole entity to lay down the procedure for admission and fee etc governing the institutions running in that particular state except the centrally funded institutions like IIT, NIT etc. Because no one can be a better judge of the requirements and inequalities-in-opportunity of the people of a particular state than that state itself. Only the State legislation can create equal level playing field for the students who are coming out from the State Board and other streams”

JUSTICE KALALARASAN COMMITTEE REPORT

Senior Counsel further contended that such source classification is permissible under the Justice Kalalarasan Committee Report. According to the written submissions, the report suggests that government schools are  a class by themselves, that students studying in those schools come from a different difficult household, and that admission to medical colleges has severely decreased from 2014-2015 forward.

P. Wilson has also presented a chart demonstrating the income criteria of parents of students attending government schools, citing the 2020 Report, and requested the court to approve the Committee's recommendations, which are identical to the existing enactment.

MERIT NOT MEASURED IN TERMS OF MARKS ALONE

Senior Counsel has also contended that, as stated in Dr. Pradeep Jain Etc vs Union Of India And Ors. Etc on 22 June, 1984[6]and other authoritative judgments, merit cannot be measured solely in terms of marks.

“…Merit cannot be measured in terms of marks alone, but human sympathies are equally important", Supreme Court had said in Pradeep Jain.

Referring to Neil Aurelio Nunes v Union of India, [7] the counsel submits as follows:

“The Hon'ble supreme court at paragraph 31 took into consideration not only the structural barriers, widespread inequalities in the availability of and access to educational facilities which result in the deprivation of certain classes of people who would be unable to effectively compete in such system, the supreme court found that the privileges accrue to forward classes are not limited to having access to quality schooling and access to tutorials and coaching centres to prepare for a competitive exams but also includes their social networks and cultural capital( communication skills, accent, books or academic accomplishment) that they inherit from their family “Senior Counsel submits

PETITIONS BARRED BY CONSTRUCTIVE RES JUDICATA

The counsel  also stated that the impugned Act was affirmed by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court in V.Muthukumar vs The State Of Tamil Nadu on 19 August, 2021[8], and hence the writ petitions are barred by constructive res judicata rules. - New grounds that arise in the mind of the litigant from time to time cannot be used to revisit the act's legitimacy. If such arguments are accepted, it will go against the public policy of re-litigating and wasting judicial time on a regular basis without allowing the case to reach its conclusion, according to the submission.

BACKGROUND

On the 17th of March, the court reserved orders in the constitutional challenge to the 7.5 percent reservation of places in Medical Colleges for students from government schools. On a previous occasion, a bench led by Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandan and Justice D Bharatha Chakravarthy observed that students nowadays do not attend schools and instead attend coaching classes.

This is the current fashion. Even when students have expected to go but, they will  skip lessons and instead attend coaching classes . Even for competitive tests such as judicial exams, students do not attend LLB classes and instead go to a tutoring centre.

The court was hearing a petition in detail challenging the constitutionality of the Tamil Nadu Admission to Undergraduate Courses in Medicine, Dentistry, Indian Medicine and Homeopathy on a preferential basis to students of Government Schools Act, 2020 (Act No. 34 of 2020) which gives  horizontal reservation of 7.5 per cent seats in medical colleges for students who have passed out of government schools in the State.

The legislation had been promulgated in October 2020 and it was supposed to take effect   from the current 2020-2021 academic year itself. The objective behind extending such a reservation is to uplift government school students who suffer from economic, social and educational backwardness, the government had previously contended.

The writ petitioners stated that students attending government schools are lumped together into a general  class without any attempt to determine the economic circumstances of the students' families.

Case Title: Preethika C. v. State of Tamil Nadu & Other Connected cases
Case No: W.P 20083/2020 & Ors


[1] Under Tamil Nadu Admission to Undergraduate Courses in Medicine, Dentistry, Indian Medicine, and Homeopathy on a Preferential Basis to Students of Government Schools Act, 2020 

Section 2(c) “Government schools” mean and includes Government schools, Corporation schools, Municipal schools, Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare schools, Kallar Reclamation schools, Forest Department schools and other schools managed by Government Departments;

Section 2(h) “private school” means a school which is not a Government school.

[2] 2001 (2) SCC 538

[3] (2003) 7 SCC 23

[4] 2021 (6)SCC 568,

[5]CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4060 OF 2009

[6] 1984 AIR 1420

[7] Writ Petition (C) No. 961 of 2021

[8]  W.P.(MD).No.14403 of 2020



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