SC holds states responsible for higher education, directs MBBS admission to ladakh students at LHMC, MAMC
New Delhi: While listening to a plea by two medical aspirants from Ladakh, who were nominated for the 'central pool' seats set aside by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Supreme Court of India directed the Lady Hardinge Medical College (LHMC) and Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) to complete the admission formalities of those students within a...
New Delhi: While listening to a plea by two medical aspirants from Ladakh, who were nominated for the 'central pool' seats set aside by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Supreme Court of India directed the Lady Hardinge Medical College (LHMC) and Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) to complete the admission formalities of those students within a week.
Further, mentioning that the issue raised in these cases concerns access to education, the Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice Dr. Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud further underlined the importance of creating an enabling environment to make it possible for students such as the petitioners to pursue professional education.
"While the right to pursue higher (professional) education has not been spelt out as a fundamental right in Part III of the Constitution, it bears emphasis that access to professional education is not a governmental largesse. Instead, the State has an affirmative obligation to facilitate access to education, at all levels," mentioned the Apex Court order dated 09.04.2021.
The Apex Court further directed the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MHFW) and the DHSL to "consider appointing a nodal officer tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that students who are duly nominated under the central pool seats are in fact admitted in their chosen course of study."
The case concerned two medical aspirants from Ladakh who got nominated by the Administration of the Union Territory of Ladakh for admission to the MBBS degree course under the 'central pool' seats set apart by the Union MHFW. One of them had been allocated against a seat at Lady Hardinge Medical College ("LHMC"). The other had been assigned to Maulana Azad Medical College ("MAMC"). Unfortunately, these students could not get admitted to their course of studies despite due nomination by the Administration of the Union Territory of Ladakh and in terms of the seats notified by the Union Government.
Medical Dialogues had recently reported that a Ladakh-based medical aspirant recently approached the Supreme Court for the delay in getting admission confirmation in Delhi-based Lady Hardinge Medical College. The petitioner student expressed her grievances before the SC as she failed to join the classes for the first-year MBBS course, even after completing the admission formalities.
The Court noted that MoHFW through a memorandum dated 09.04.2021, issued guidelines for the allocation of the general pool MBBS/BDS seats for 2020-2021. Similarly, MHFW in a Notification dated 23 November 2020, allotted one seat at LHMC to the Union Territory of Ladakh from the central pool. A similar allocation of one seat was made at MAMC. These allocations were made for the Ladakh central pool medical seats for the year 2020-2021.
Following this, through a communication dated 19 February 2021 issued by the Administration of the Union Territory of Ladakh, the DHSL forwarded the list of selected candidates from Ladakh to be admitted in the central pool medical seats for the year 2020-2021. In that list, the petitioner students' names at serial no 1 and 4.
The petitioner students submitted before the Apex Court that even though they were duly nominated by the DHSL, the admission process of the petitioners had not been confirmed. However, other similarly placed students nominated by the DHSL, who were allotted to different institutions have had their admissions confirmed, submitted the petitioners.
Both the Additional Solicitor Generals representing the Government of the Union Territory of Ladakh and the Union MHFW submitted before the Court that since due allocations had been made in favor of the two petitioners, there was no reason and justification to deny them the benefit of admission to the courses for which the allocation had been made.
Thus, the Apex Court bench directed the colleges to complete the admission formalities of the petitioner students immediately and latest by a week from the date of judgment. The Court issued similar general directions in order to obviate the possibility of each of the similarly placed students being required to move this Court.
"Financial hardship should not prevent the students from getting admission in terms of the allocation which has been made in their favor legitimately under the central pool seats," mentioned the Supreme Court bench.
Further reminding the obligation of the States to facilitate access to education, at all levels, the Court mentioned,
"This obligation assumes far greater importance for students whose background (by virtue of such characteristics as caste, class, gender, religion, disability and geographical region) imposes formidable obstacles on their path to accessing quality education."
The Court in its judgment referred to the ICESCR Committee Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and ratified by India in 1979. The Committee noted in the General Comment 13, "As an empowerment right, education is the primary vehicle by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and obtain the means to participate fully in their communities."
Justice Dr. Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud also took note of Article 26(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is a source of persuasive value obligates every State Party to ensure that technical and professional education is made generally available and that higher education is equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
The Apex Court bench further mentioned that in the General Comment 13, the ICESCR Committee also outlined four essential features that education at all levels must possess. As 'accessibility' was one such feature, the Committee highlighted two of the components of accessibility. First, the guarantee of non-discrimination, in relation to which it notes that, "education must be accessible to all, especially the most vulnerable groups, in law and fact, without discrimination on any of the prohibited grounds". The Second one is, economic accessibility, meaning that the state party must take steps to ensure that financial constraints do not come in the way of accessing education.
"The ICESCR Committee pertinently notes that disparities in spending policies that result in differing qualities of education for persons residing in different geographic locations may constitute discrimination under the Covenant. Each state party is required, inter alia, to fulfill the right to education, by facilitating and providing for its realization" mentioned the Apex Court judgment.
Further, the Court opined that pursuant to these obligations which India has undertaken by being a signatory to the Covenant, the Union MHFW and the DHSL should ensure proper co-ordination so that students allocated colleges under the central pool seats are not put to hardship in enrolling once they have been duly allocated their seats.
"Specifically, the Union MHFW and the DHSL can consider appointing a nodal officer tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that students who are duly nominated under the central pool seats are in fact admitted in their chosen course of study. Such an officer can serve as a one-point contact for students who may otherwise face numerous difficulties in securing their admission, even after they have been allocated the seat. The details of such officer can be widely publicized on the websites of the aforesaid two authorities. Such an institutional framework will ensure that students are not left in the lurch due to lack of help in securing their legitimate admission to the appropriate course. In this way, it will help remedy the broader problem of which the case before us is a symptom," mentioned the Apex Court bench in the judgment.
To view the original Court order, click on the link below.