NO in service quota for Super Speciality admissions this year, Holds Supreme Court
New Delhi: Giving its final verdict, the Supreme Court has ruled that there cannot be any 50 percent reservation to in-service candidates in super-specialty courses for the current academic year of 2020-21. Holding so, the apex court has directed the Directorate General of Health Services to proceed with the counselling for SS admissions.
The directives were passed by a Bench of honourable Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi in a batch of petitions challenging the orders passed by the Kerala and Madras High Courts on the issue.
However, this direction is only meant for this academic year, the apex court has clarified while putting the put the matter related to decisions taken by the Kerala and Tamil Nadu government for providing quota to in-service doctors for further consideration in February next year.
The SC bench was hearing a batch of pleas filed by doctors, including NEET PG qualifiers who were challenging reservation of seats for in-service candidates in super-specialty courses.
Medical Dialogues has been reporting about the matter of whether 50 percent reservation to government doctors and in-service candidates in PostGraduate medical (PG medical) and super-specialty courses should be allowed. The issue came after the state of Tamil Nadu, on November 7 had allocated 50 percent of postgraduate super-specialty seats in government medical colleges to in-service government doctors from the academic year 2020-2021.
Later, when the central government had asked the court to defer the hearings till the dismissal of a case in the supreme court, the senior counsel for the serving doctors stated that the case which is being considered in the apex court had no connection with the current circumstances and hence the government's implementation of the quota should not be delayed. Thereafter, the Madras High court, on November 9 refused to defer the hearing and disposed of the plea.
Then, the Supreme Court had issued a notice to the State authorities while considering a plea moved by the group of PG doctors who argued that the apex court was already seized of the issue of reservation in super-specialty medical courses in the Dr. Preeti Sharma case and had ordered the maintenance of the status quo till it was finally decided.
Besides, they contended that a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, exported in 1999, had held that "merit, and merit alone, is the basis for admission at the super-specialty level".
Instead, the November 7 order of the State government had empowered the Secretary, Selection Committee, to conduct counselling and fill 50% of the super-specialty seats in government medical colleges with in-service candidates in the State of Tamil Nadu.
The appeal argued that the order was contrary to the Postgraduate Medical Education (Amendment) Regulations of 2019, which mandates that the Directorate General of Health Services should be in charge of the admission process. "There is no concept of any reservation for admission to super-specialty medical courses," the appeal had stated.
Similarly, questions were raised against the Kerala High Court's direction to implement Kerala medical officers' admission to postgraduate courses under the Service Quota Act, 2008 which provided for 40% reservation to in-service doctors in the super speciality medical courses.
The States argued that preparation for admission to these courses had started almost immediately following the Constitution Bench judgment on August 31. The judgment had empowered States to devise a separate channel of entry for in-service doctors. "State has the legislative competence and authority to provide for a separate source of entry for in-service candidates seeking admission to postgraduate degree/diploma courses in the exercise of powers under Entry 25, List III," the apex court had concluded in the August 31 verdict.
It was hence pointed out that observing that the States have the power to provide quota for in-service candidates in PG-super specialty medical courses, the High Court of Kerala had directed that the 40 % in-service quota under the Kerala Medical Officers Postgraduate and Service Quota Act, 2008 should be given effect during the counselling for PG-super-specialty medical seats.
Now during the recent hearing, the petitioners contended that there are 140 postgraduate Super Specialty seats in the Government Medical Colleges and RCCs in the State of Kerala. The rank list of the candidates who qualified in the NEET PGSS 2020 shall be prepared by the National Board of Examinations on the basis of merit. As the information bulletin for the entrance examination for admission to Super Specialty Medical Courses has already been issued in which no reservation has been provided for in-service candidates, it is practically impossible to introduce any new reservation norms for the current academic year i.e. 2020-2021.
This was contended by the state of Kerala which submitted that it might not be possible to implement the reservations for in-service candidates at this stage for the academic year 2020-2021 as the admission process has already commenced. It was argued that administrative inconvenience cannot be a ground to interfere with the order passed by the High Court directing the implementation of the reservation to in-service doctors in accordance with the Kerala Medical Officers Admission to Postgraduate Courses under Service Quota Act, 2008. State of Kerala.
The counsel for the petitioners placed similar contentions and said, "Rules of the game cannot be changed mid-stream and no reservation can be provided for this academic year i.e. 2020-2021 as the procedure for selections for admission to Super Specialty Medical Courses commenced a long time back."
The National Medical Commission, for its part, submitted before the SC bench that it was impossible to provide reservation for in-service doctors for this year as the admission process was at an advanced stage.
The information bulletin for NEET-SS 2020 was issued on 03.08.2020. The examination date was scheduled to be held on 15.09.2020, the results of which were to be declared on 25.09.2020. The counselling for admission to Super Specialty Medical Courses was postponed.
After hearing the submissions and contention from the parties, the apex court noted that in point 5.16 of the bulletin that there shall be no reservations of seats for Super Specialty DM/MCH Courses. The Medical Counselling Committee issued the counselling scheme for 100 percent All India Quota for NEET Super Specialty DM/MCH DMB 2020-2021 in which it was made clear that there shall be no reservation for Super Specialty Medical Courses."
Other points pertaining to permissibility of reservations for admission to Super Specialty courses in view of the earlier judgments of this Court and interpretation of Regulation 9 of the 2017 Regulations framed by the MCI are to be considered in detail, the bench affirmed.
Holding that as the admission process is at the final stages, reservation cannot be permitted for in-service Doctors for this year, the apex court maintained:
The process for admissions to Super Specialty Medical Courses started on 03.08.2020 and it was made clear to all the competing candidates that there shall be no reservation to Super Specialty Medical Courses. Government order issued by the State of Tamil Nadu on 07.11.2020 reserving 50 per cent seats for in-service doctors would be detrimental to the interests of the meritorious Doctors as 50 per cent of the available seats in the State of Tamil Nadu in Super Specialty Medical Courses will not be available to them. We are not in agreement with the submission of Mr. Vaidyanathan and Mr. Giri that nobody will be prejudiced if the Government Order is given effect to. There will be reduction of 50% of seats in Super Specialty courses in Tamil Nadu if the Government Order is carried out, which is detrimental to their chances of admission. Admittedly no reservation for in-service Doctors was implemented since 2016. As the admission process is at the final stages, we cannot permit reservation for in-service Doctors for this year."
Without expressing any opinion on the validity of GOMS No.462 of 07.11.2020, the Supreme Court has directed:
the counselling for admission to Super Specialty Medical Courses for the academic year 2020- 2021 shall proceed on a date to be fixed by the competent authority without providing for reservations to in-service doctors for the academic year 2020-2021.
The direction would be operative only for the current academic year i.e. 2020-2021, the bench clarified.To access the official judgment, click on the link below: