Supreme Court Dismisses Dravidian Parties' Plea For 50 Per Cent Reservation In Medical College Seats, Nixes Attempts To Gain Political Mileage

Supreme Court Dismisses Dravidian Parties' Plea For 50 Per Cent Reservation In Medical College Seats, Nixes Attempts To Gain Political MileageSupreme Court Of India (Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images) 
Snapshot
  • In June this year, the Supreme Court said that “reservation is not a fundamental right”, even as the Centre has sought its intervention in providing a comprehensive settlement on reservation for OBCs in government-run medical colleges.

Yesterday (26 October), the Supreme Court rejected a petition by two major Tamil Nadu political parties seeking 50 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) students in medical and dental college seats under the all India quota (AIQ) for the 2020-21 academic year.

The ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and principal Opposition party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) had filed petitions, which had the backing of almost all parties in the State, barring the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

They had sought implementation of the Tamil Nadu government’s 50 per cent quota in medical and dental seats surrendered by the States under AIQ for graduate and postgraduate students.

An apex court bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi rejected the petition, accepting the Centre’s argument that it will not be practically possible to implement it this year.

The ruling is in line with the Supreme Court's view in various reservation cases, besides the fact that it is hearing a petition filed in 2015, called the Salomi Kumar case, seeking 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in institutions not run by the government across the country.

AIADMK and DMK approached the Supreme Court after the Madras High Court, on 27 July, gave the Union government three months' time to decide on the reservation percentage for OBCs in the State's medical colleges under AIQ.

The AIADMK and DMK pleaded in the Supreme Court that a higher reservation quota be decided this academic year itself. The petitions were primarily aimed at gaining political advantage ahead of the State Assembly elections due in six months' time.

Tamil Nadu has a formula wherein 69 seats out of every 100 are earmarked for the quota system in educational institutions.

As per a legislation passed in the Tamil Nadu Assembly in 1994, 26.5 per cent of seats in educational institutions is reserved for Backward Classes, 3.5 per cent for Backward Muslim castes, 20 per cent for OBCs defined as Most Backward Castes, 15 per cent to Scheduled Castes, 3 per cent to a sub-community of Scheduled Castes and 1 per cent to Scheduled Tribes.

The Madras High Court had asked the Centre to reconsider its decision on AIQ seats surrendered by the Tamil Nadu government on the grounds that there was no legal or constitutional impediment for extending the reservation benefits.

It asked the Union government to constitute a panel with representatives from Central and State governments, besides the Medical Council of India to decide on the OBC reservations issue for the AIQ seats.

It, however, said that the reservation was subject to the orders of the Supreme Court.

The Madras High Court ruling, asking the Centre to form the committee, was just a 'solace' to the political parties in the State that were doing politics on the reservation issue.

In June this year, the Supreme Court said that “reservation is not a fundamental right”, even as the Centre has sought its intervention in providing a comprehensive settlement on reservation for OBCs in government-run medical colleges.

The Union government has also told the apex court that it will provide reservation to OBCs in all institutions only within the 50 per cent cap imposed by the Supreme Court in a 1993 judgement on total reservation.

The Centre hopes it will get a comprehensive settlement to the issue of reservation from the Supreme Court before the next academic year.

It expects the apex court to give its ruling in the Saloni Kumar case.

The Centre has argued before the Madras High Court as well as the Supreme Court that since 1986, OBCs have been accommodated in the all-India quota seats in government-run institutions, though the quota is not being implemented.

Fifteen per cent of all MBBS seats in the country and 50 per cent of postgraduate medical college seats surrendered by the States make up the all-India quota.

The practice has been in vogue all these years when either the DMK or the AIADMK has been in power in the State and through alliances at the Centre.

Tamil Nadu, in order to protect its reservation policy, has got its quota law included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution that does not allow any judicial review.

It was done to bypass the 1993 Supreme Court ruling capping the quota.

However, the Supreme Court has ruled that such laws can be reviewed judicially.

Though political parties in Tamil Nadu are demanding 27 per cent quota to OBCs, the Centre might not oblige them, given its stance that reservation should not exceed 50 per cent.

Political parties in Tamil Nadu claim that over 10,000 students have been affected in the State in view of the 50 per cent OBC reservation not being implemented in the State.

This is now expected to become an issue in the Assembly elections as their plans to score political brownie points have been stymied by the Supreme Court.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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