The Top court said that reservation for backward classes is not at odds with merit but furthers its distributive impact while upholding the 27 percent quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) undergraduate and postgraduate medical admissions (all-India quota).
Earlier back on January 7, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and A S Bopanna in a brief order upheld the constitutional validity of the OBC reservation and approved for the current admission cycle, the Rs 8 lakh annual income limit set for identifying those eligible for the quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS). The court had then said that it would soon come out with a detailed order giving reasons for its decision.
“Merit cannot be reduced to narrow definitions of performance in an open competitive examination, which only provides formal equality of opportunities. Current competencies are assessed by competent examinations but are not reflective of excellence, capability and potential of an individual, which are also affected by lived experiences, individual character, etc,” Justice Chandrachud read out from the judgment.
"Articles 15(4) and 15 (5) are not an exception to Article 15 (1), which itself sets out the principle of substantive equality (including the recognition of existing inequalities). Thus, Articles 15 (4) and 15 (5) become a restatement of a particular facet of the rule of substantive equality that has been set out in Article 15 (1);," the Court said.
The Court in its order today said that the scheme of AIQ was devised to allot seats in State-run medical institutions.
"The Union Government was not required to seek the permission of this Court before providing reservation in AIQ seats. Therefore, providing reservation in the AIQ seats is a policy decision of the Government, which will be subject to the contours of judicial review similar to every reservation policy," the order stated.
The court pointed out that any change in the eligibility qualification would have further delayed the admission process.
The Court also pronounced its reason for not allowing new criteria for EWS reservation and retaining old ones instead for the current academic year. The Court will evaluate the new criteria in the third week of March, for subsequent academic years.
Earlier, a three-member committee formed by the Centre had recommended that the Rs 8 lakh annual income criteria should be retained. The committee had been formed after the Supreme Court on October 8 had observed that the criteria of the annual income of Rs 8 lakh appeared to be arbitrary and had asked the Centre to explain the rationale behind it.
The NEET PG counseling for the 50 percent AIQ seats is underway. While the registration and choice filling against Round 1 is over, the NEET PG counseling round 1 result is yet to be declared and is scheduled to be declared on January 22.