In a judgment with wide ramifications, the Punjab and Haryana high court has ruled that reservation granted to a particular category may not be necessary "for all times and for all places". Justice K Kannan remarked that every new category of reservation takes a slice from the limited pool of resources of aspiring and meritorious candidates.
Also, there is no fundamental right to demand reservation for any category than what the administration specifically makes possible in the field of education, and "opening new categories of reservation is opening wounds" [that] are healing in society, he added, dismissing two petitions filed by wards of ex-servicemen seeking restoration of 5% ex-servicemen quota in MBBS and BDS courses at Government Medical College And Hospital (GMCH), Chandigarh. That quota was done away with in 1995.
The petitioners had contended that Chandigarh administration should also adopt the reservation policy of 5% ex-servicemen reservation quota as was being implemented by Punjab and Haryana governments in medical education. But justice Kannan expressed that a reservation that was once possible for admission to persons who were victims of terrorists "was perhaps at some point of time relevant for Punjab when it was going through tougher times". What was possible for Punjab might not be applicable elsewhere in any other state, he added.
The Medical Council of India (MCI) had informed the court that it lays down standards of education, and the extent of reservation and its allocation is done by the respective states. However, the Chandigarh administration submitted that it had a policy of reservation to accommodate claims of ex-servicemen as well till 1995 but it was done away with after the MCI inspection of GMCH when it was observed that the reservation for persons other than those from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was not as per the council's recommendations.
'Dent on merit'
Justice Kannan remarked, "As much as there will be a clamour for reservation […] outside the arena of merit, there is bound to be a serious impact in public perception that we are a resilient society [ready] to suffer any dent on merit and allow for several vested interests to take over."
He said that reservation as a measure of social justice is a constitutional mandate and "we will limit it to where it deserves": "It must be remembered that right of reservation itself is not constitutionally enforceable other than what is permitted under Articles 14, 15 and 16."
Hence the court said that it would not allow for a 'feverish plea' that the reservation which was closed for ex-servicemen in 1995 must be reopened "as reservation serve purposes depending on the local needs and exigencies of time".