HC nixes Goa’s bid to introduce reservations in PG medical courses
The Bombay high court at Goa has struck down a notification issued by the Goa government which mandated a cumulative 41% reservations for the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Castes (OBC) in the state quota of post graduate seats in the Goa Medical and Goa Dental Colleges from the academic year 2021-2022 onwards.
The government’s decision, the high court said, was contrary to principles laid down by previous Supreme Court judgements, taken in haste without application of mind and violative of the government’s own rules for admission to post graduate courses which specifically mention that admission to post graduate courses was to be strictly on merit except for a relaxation in marks afforded to those belonging to disadvantaged backgrounds.
Disposing a petition filed by a group of more than 100 doctors and medical students, the high court ruled that a failure “to take into account vital and relevant considerations which the decision-maker was bound to” rendered the decision to impose the reservations from this year onwards “unreasonable and arbitrary.”
“Such a serious decision to reserve 41% of the State quota seats to PG courses at GMC ought to have been preceded by application of mind to a host of relevant considerations referred to in a plethora of decisions of the Supreme Court on the subject as well as the considerations flagged by the dean of GMC. For all these reasons as well, the impugned decision is vitiated and liable to be struck down,” the high court bench of Justices M S Sonak and M S Jawalkar ruled.
In a notification issued in May last year, the Goa government sought to implement reservations to the postgraduate courses at the Goa Medical College (GMC) to the extent of 41% in favour of STs (12%); SCs (2%) and OBCs (27%) from 2021-2022 academic year.
The government argued that it was in tune with its orders of 2007, when it introduced a 12% reservation for STs in all government-run and aided educational institutions and a similar sounding notification in the year 2014, when it enhanced an already existing reservation for the OBCs from 19.5% to 27%.
The government claimed in the court that there had been a “failure/lapse” by not applying reservations for the post graduate medical courses when the quota provisions had been notified back in 2007. The court was, however, unwilling to buy the argument.
“The attempt, it appears, is to downplay this long period of over 14 years and to suggest that there was no conscious decision against the implementation or application of reservation policy to PG courses at GMC and GDC. Having regard to this length of time, a cogent explanation was due, but the same is not forthcoming either from the notings in the file or the affidavit of the State government,” the court observed.
The court also ruled that in case of a conflict between two sets of executive instructions -- the government’s general administrative instructions that reservations will apply to all educational institutions, and the rules that specifically deal with admissions to postgraduate courses in the Goa Medical and Dental Colleges -- it was the latter that would have precedence.
The high court also struck down two recommendations made by the Goa Commission for SC/ST and the Goa State Commission for OBC for implementing reservations noting that they were made without the government specifying how the notification could impact them, without hearing the State government or more particularly, the deans of GMC and GDC.