Supreme Court denies relief to CMC Vellore, Admissions via state Merit lists only
Chennai: In a significant order, the Supreme Court, while denying relief to Christian Medical College Vellore, CMC Vellore, has directed that the PG medical seats in the institute for the academic session 2022-2023 would be filled from the NEET merit list prepared by the Tamil Nadu government only.With this, the State of Tamil Nadu will be allowing students for PG admissions to Christian...
Chennai: In a significant order, the Supreme Court, while denying relief to Christian Medical College Vellore, CMC Vellore, has directed that the PG medical seats in the institute for the academic session 2022-2023 would be filled from the NEET merit list prepared by the Tamil Nadu government only.
With this, the State of Tamil Nadu will be allowing students for PG admissions to Christian Medical College Vellore for the academic year 2021-22 from the NEET merit list of students belonging to the Christian minority after counselling is conducted by the State Selection Committee.
The bench of honourable Justices L Nagewara Rao and B R Gavai found force in the vehement submissions of Additional Advocate General Amit Anand Tiwari, appearing for the state government, that the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) Regulations clearly stipulate that admissions to the medical courses, both MBBS and the PG, have to be done from the NEET merit list.
According to Livelaw report, the top court was hearing a writ petition by Christian Medical College Association, Vellore, seeking the quashing of the Selection Committee's letter whereby the State of Tamil Nadu sought to impose the state policy of reserving 50% of seats ("state quota") in its favour in the UG and PG medical degree courses in CMC Vellore.
The writ petition also sought direction to the respondents to not interfere with admissions of NEET qualified candidates to UG and PG courses in petitioner college for academic session 2021-22.
The petition has also stated that over a period of 20 years i.e. from 1993 to 2013 the Supreme Court as well as the Madras High Court, in view of the unique nature of the Institution, has permitted the Institution to admit students as per its own admission procedure for its under-graduate, post-graduate and allied medical courses, which they have been following since the past several decades.
"The State Selection Committee has, from the academic year 2018 onwards, permitted the Institution to select students in the minority network category from the merit list of such category thus preserving and protecting the Institution's identity as a Minority Institution" the plea stated.
Senior Advocate Shyam Divan on behalf of the petitioner submitted that CMC has been conducting admissions by taking students only after they have qualified NEET, and students are being admitted to the petitioner's Institution after they have been recommended by Selection Committee. However, the petitioner follows a fair and transparent method of selecting students belonging to the Christian community, who have been sponsored after being accorded a geographical code.
He stated that students sponsored by the Church from all over the country are given admissions after they go through counselling procedures and qualify NEET.
Mr Divan further submitted that from the past 3 years admissions were permitted in petitioner Institution for UG and PG courses through common counselling, for 74% of the seats in UG course and 70% of the PG course. He requested that the present practice may be continued in academic year 2021-22.
CMC said that presently, it admits students to 74% seats from students belonging to churches and organizations (minority network) from the merit list. Since 2018, the State has permitted to the institution to select students of minority network from the merit list.
During the hearing, senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the minority institution, argued against the communication of Tamil Nadu seeking seat sharing at 50-50 ratio from two lists prepared by the state government and the institution respectively for the admissions in the PG courses.
The institution not only argued that seat sharing methodology, as communicated by the state government, be disallowed, but also sought approval for its own method of selecting students in which the students from over 23 zonal regions are admitted from lists sent by various "Protestant Churches/ Christian organisations".
Divan said even after NEET came into force, the institution has been admitting students who have qualified in a transparent method.
He also submitted that the top one and two students are selected from each list from such regional zones and they are selected after counselling and hence, the method of selection is merit-based.
Additional Advocate General Amit Anand Tiwari opposed the plea saying that the NEET Regulations provided that admissions have to be conducted as per the merit list prepared by the government authorities. He argued that admissions to UG and PG courses are governed by Graduate Admissions Regulations 1997 and Post Graduate Regulations 2017. He referred to relevant portions of the said regulations, and submitted that admissions to UG and PG courses should be only on basis of merit in NEET exams. He also relied on judgement of the Supreme Court in Darus Salam case to submit that it is well settled that Government regulation is permissible in admissions to minority institutions as well.
Referring to the judgment, the counsel for Tamil Nadu said that the states are required to maintain a merit list of minority students.
He also demonstrated from the list of the admitted students that several of them were given the admissions in the institution after ignoring and bypassing the students who were higher in the minority merit list prepared by the state.
He submitted on instructions that admissions to petitioner institution shall be made only from Christian Minority for academic year 2021-2022 from the NEET merits list after conducting counselling. However, he submitted that the selection of candidates from a particular sect of the Christian community, which has been the practice, is contrary to law and will not be permitted from 2020-2021.
He admitted that from academic year 2018-19, students were nominated by the petitioner from a particular sect from same religion and were granted admission. The State realised that such students who were nominated by petitioner Institution are lower in merit as compared to other students from Christian minority who have secured higher marks but couldn't be granted admissions, adds Livelaw.
The AAG further submitted that the petitioner wants that the NEET marks should be only qualifying marks and shouldn't form basis of determining merit inter se between students. However, the same is not the position in law today.
On this, the Bench observed that in the last academic year, the Institution had been permitted to admit candidates.
"In respect of last academic year, how were admissions made to PG courses with respect to this institution? It is stated in affidavit that 2018-19 onwards Petitioner has been admitting NEET qualified candidates through common counselling done by selection committee. The Petitioner institution had been permitted to admit candidates . How does this work, if counselling was done by selection committee, what leverage does institution have in selecting persons belonging to their own fate, as said by Mr Divan?" the Bench asked.
It was submitted that NEET prescribes that there will be an All India merit list and a State merit list. Even in the state merits list, NEET further prescribes there will be separate merit list for minorities, each religious denomination and also one for reserved categories.
The Bench then suggested that for purpose of an interim order, with reference to the PG admissions that are to take place immediately, the State can follow last year's method of 70% and 30% will be given to it from general list where they can recommend candidates.
Referring to the Graduate admissions Regulations, Mr Tiwari submitted that reading of these regulations make it clear that you can't have any other merit list or criteria but the marks. The petitioners are suggesting it has to be according to their choice.
In response to Mr Tiwari's submissions that majority students in the institute come from outside, the Bench said 'you have to see the object work of this Institution, it brings such good name to your state, it has been in existence for 100 years. The human service is done by doctors from this Institution to the entire country"
The CMC, in its plea, has also sought an interim relief that it be allowed to continue with the old method of selection as was being done for the last three years for the PG admissions in the current year.
However, as per the PTI report, the apex court refused to grant the relief and directed that the entire 100 per cent PG seats for academic session 2022-2023 are to be filled through the minority merit list prepared by Tamil Nadu.
The Bench further clarified that the interim order has been passed in peculiar facts and circumstances of this case.
Ultimately, passing the order, the bench ruled, as quoted by Livelaw:
"After considering submissions, we are of considered view that for present academic year 2021-2022 students shall be allotted for PG admissions by state government from the NEET merit list of students belonging to Christian minority to all the PG seats from the merit list after counselling is conducted by Selection Committee.
We make it clear that this order is passed in peculiar facts and circumstances of this case. In view of urgency, as this matter needs to be decided early, list this matter in March or April".