Claiming of NRI seats is discretion of Medical College: Rajasthan HC overturns single bench's order
Rajasthan: Setting aside a single bench order that had directed the mandatory intake of students in the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) quota at the Mahatma Gandhi Medical College, Sitapura; the Rajasthan High Court recently pronounced that the seat allotment must be done strictly in accordance with the seat matrix and merit of the candidates.
The court further directed to refund or adjust any fees paid by the candidates( if they were allotted a seat in the institution) in pursuance of the single judge order.
The matter originated after the Rajasthan Medical College issued a notification, where, it did not allocate a percentage of seats for the NRI category for 2020, and published a notification to that effect. The seats that were supposed to have been in the NRI category were deemed as management seats.
Aggrieved by the notification, two NRI applicants moved the Court seeking to quash the same.
Their counsel referred to an earlier Supreme Court case and argued that a 15% quota for NRI applicants was mandatory per the Supreme Court's ruling and that this could not be bypassed. The applicant's counsel further submitted that the Medical college had, in fact, advertised its NRI seat allocation in its prospectus.
Deliberating the matter, the Single bench had held that the action of not considering the candidature of NRI candidates and treating the seats vacant as management seats is illegal and unjustified. The bench had directed;
"NRI seats should be filled by conducting of counselling, treating the seat matrix as NRI seats and only after giving an opportunity to all the NRI students. The seats which are left shall be treated as Management seats and to be filled in accordance with the Rules for the candidates as per their merit."
Thereby, the NEET Counselling Board was ordered to allot the two petitioners in the case positions in the Radiology and Gynaecology departments of the College.
However, the order did not go down well with the Board, and it along with two other applicants seeking a place in the college, filed an intra-court appeal, seeking a reversal of the single Judge order.
The Board submitted that the medical college had notified its 'seat matrix' (including the non-inclusion of an NRI-quota this year) and this had been accepted without objection from other colleges. Further, it added; "The seat allotment was done solely on the basis of merit and as per the seat matrix submitted by Mahatma Gandhi Medical College, Sitapura, Jaipur and that the candidates do not have any right to claim the seat under the NRI Quota as it is the sole discretion of the Institution to allot seats under NRI Quota and more particularly when fees structure is same, there was no justification in allotting the seats to a less meritorious candidate when the Institution did not opt for any seats under NRI Quota in the seat matrix submitted by the Institution."
The Board further argued that the single Judge had usurped the Board's powers in directing the allocation of seats in favor of the original petitioners under the NRI category.
Examining the case, the two the Bench of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Pankaj Bhandari clarified,
"... the main purpose for allotting NRI seats was to provide extra finances to the institutions, so as to strengthen their level of education and to enlarge their educational activities and also to provide benefits to students coming from economically weaker sections of the society."
The Division Bench went on to accept the contention that the single Judge had overstepped his jurisdiction and usurped the Board's powers in his ruling. It clarified that the Supreme Court and other allied precedents, it was only directed that the States cannot deny the decision of private institutions to allot a 15% NRI quota. However, this would not apply where the institution itself has not demanded any NRI seats. The court observed;
"... it was not mandatory for the Institution to ask for 15% seats under the NRI Quota. It is further not in dispute that the seat matrix was submitted by the Institution itself, wherein no seat was claimed under NRI Quota."
Subsequently, the court allowed the Board's appeal and noted;
"... claiming of NRI seats is the discretion of the Institution and a candidate cannot claim the same as of right."
The court held;
"In view of the fact that the judgment passed by the learned Single Judge is set aside, any seat allotment done in consequence of the impugned order, as well as any seat allotment done in compliance of the interim order passed by Division Bench, shall stand nullified and the seat allotment must be done strictly in accordance with the seat matrix and merit of the candidates. Any fees paid by the candidates in pursuance of the order passed by the learned Single Judge and the interim order passed by the Division Bench shall be refunded or adjusted, if the candidates are allotted seats in the Institution. "
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