Supreme Court reserves order on in-service quota for medical admissions

The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its order on the interim question whether Tamil Nadu and Kerala should provide 50% in-service reservation for admissions to super-specialty medical courses in government colleges for the current academic year. 

A Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao was hearing a batch of pleas filed by doctors, including postgraduate holders qualified in NEET 2020, challenging reservation of seats for in-service candidates in super-specialty courses.

The Tamil Nadu government argued that there was an acute need for super-specialty qualified doctors both in the medical academia and in practice. 

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 exercise of powers under Entry 25, List III,” the apex court had concluded in the August 31 verdict.

Senior advocate P. Wilson, for caveators, submitted that the issue of in-service reservations to government doctors was already settled. “The matter is being re-agitated again and again,” he said. 

Both Madras and Kerala High Courts had not intervened with the States’ move to provide in-service reservation.

However, the doctors, who have challenged the quota, refer to a 1999 Constitution Bench verdict in their favour. This judgment, they said, had held that “merit, and merit alone, is the basis for admission at the super-specialty level”.

One of the pleas challenged a November 7 order of the Tamil Nadu government allowing the Secretary, Selection Committee, to conduct counselling and fill 50% of the super-specialty seats in the government medical colleges with in-service candidates in the State. 

The appeal argued that the State order was contrary to the Postgraduate Medical Education (Amendment) Regulations of 2019, which mandated 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,” they contended.

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