'Reservation not at odds with merit': SC upholds validity of OBC quota in NEET admissions
The top court said that examinations are not a proxy for merit and merit should be socially contextualised and re-conceptualised as an institution towards equality that we as a society value
The Supreme Court on Thursday, upholding the 27 per cent quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) All India Quota (AIQ) seats, said that merit cannot be reduced to the definition of performance in open competitive examination and merit should be socially contextualised.
The court bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud also said that open competitive examinations only provide formal equality of opportunities.
These observations are part of a detailed order passed by the court in the matter concerning the pleas relating to providing 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Class (OBC) and 10 per cent for Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category in the All-India Quota (AIQ) seats for the admission in the NEET for all medical seats.
As per The Hindu, reading out excerpts from the judgment, Justice Chandrachud said the power of the state governments to provide reservations under Article 15 (4) and (5) of the Constitution was not an “exception” to Article 15 (1), which enshrines the mandate that “the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them”.
The Hindu's report said the court held that the power of the state government to craft reservation for the OBC amplified the principle of “substantive equality” manifested through Article 15 (1). Exams did not reflect how social, economic and cultural advantages that accrued to certain classes contributed to their success in them, the court noted.
As per the report, the verdict is a significant victory for states such as Tamil Nadu, the court confirmed their power to make “special provisions” and provide reservation in educational admissions, whether in aided or unaided institutions, and government jobs for the advancement of “any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes”.
According to ANI, the top court also said that examinations are not a proxy for merit and merit should be socially contextualised and re-conceptualised as an institution towards equality that we as a society value. "Reservation is not at odds with merit but furthers its distributive impact, " the top court said.
The Supreme court also clarified that the Central Government was not required to seek the permission of the court to reserve seats in All India Quota. On 7 January the Supreme court allowed NEET-PG Counselling for 2021-2022 based on existing EWS/OBC reservation criteria, ANI's report said.
The apex court had given a green signal to 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Class (OBC) and 10 per cent for Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category in the All-India Quota (AIQ) seats for the admission process in the NEET as existing criteria this year.
However, for the EWS category, the Supreme court had said that the 10 per cent criteria, which was notified earlier shall continue to operate for this year so that the admissions process shall not be dislocated for the current academic year.
ANI said in a report, the court had said that it will hear the matter relating to EWS later and listed it for the third week in March. The court had noted that there is an urgent need to commence the process of counselling and therefore it issued some interim direction.
The court has earlier reserved its order on pleas relating to providing 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Class (OBC) and 10 per cent for Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category in the All-India Quota (AIQ) seats for the admission in the NEET for all medical seats.
On 31 December, the Centre filed an affidavit stating that it has decided to stick to the existing criteria of Rs 8 lakh annual income limit for determination of 10 per cent EWS reservation with respect to the ongoing admissions to the NEET postgraduate courses.
The Centre had informed the apex court that an expert committee constituted by the government to reassess the criteria, suggested that the existing criteria may be continued for ongoing admissions while the revised criteria suggested by the committee may be adopted from the next admission cycle, ANI said.
ANI's report said, changing the EWS criteria midway will lead to complications, the committee had opined while recommending the introduction of revised EWS criteria from the next academic year.
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