No obligation on private medical colleges to provide quota for NRI candidates: SC

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There is no obligation on private medical colleges to provide reservation for Non-Resident Indians (NRI) and it is the discretion of management of such colleges to provide such quota, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

However, if a medical college or institution decides to do away with such quota, reasonable notice of such a decision should be given to enable those aspiring to such seats to choose elsewhere, the bench headed by justice L Nageswara Rao said.

“Private colleges and institutions can decide whether, and to what extent, they wish to offer NRI quota. Yet that discretion should be tempered; if the discretion to have such a quota is (initially) exercised, it should (if) revised or modified (be done) reasonably, and within reasonable time,” the bench which also comprised justice S Ravindra Bhat held.

The court was hearing a plea filed by certain medical candidates challenging a judgment of the Rajasthan high court which had upheld the change of seat matrix for admission to post graduate (PG) medical and dental seats in colleges in the State of Rajasthan, for the academic year 2020-21, by eliminating the NRI quota.

The admission to PG medical and dental courses for academic year 2020-21 began sometime in early 2020. The procedure for selection for admissions began with the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), which was held in January, 2020.

The breakup of seats published on March 17, 2020, stated that 15 percent of the total intake in PG medical courses would be filled by NRI quota aspirants.

Subsequently, due to the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, a broad consensus emerged among private colleges that going ahead with the NRI quota would be inadvisable.

Therefore, on April 11, 2020 private colleges en masse decided not to proceed with the NRI quota and instead merge it with the 35 percent management quota seats, and proceeded to fill them entirely based upon rank based merit of the management quota candidates arranged in terms of their ranking and performance in the NEET.

NRI candidates were to be treated as management quota candidates and their applications too were considered on the basis of their overall merit in that category.

This was challenged before the Rajasthan high court and the challenge was upheld by the single judge who on July 10 ruled that only after exhausting the option of filling eligible NRI candidates in that quota that the remaining seats in the 15 percent could be treated as management quota seats.

A division bench of the high court, however, overturned this decision of the single judge on August 25 and approved the decision of the private collages to scrap NRI quota. By then, admissions were made by colleges based on single judge’s order and the division bench’s order meant that another round of admission to those seats had to be conducted.

The apex court noted that NRI quota is at the discretion of the private medical colleges and the same has been settled through previous judgments of the top court in TMA Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka and PA Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra.

However, it observed that the prevailing pandemic, the various steps which impelled the NRI quota candidates to commit themselves, and the eleventh hour policy change brought about by the colleges acted to the distinct disadvantage of these NRI candidates.

In the circumstances of the case and to do justice to all the parties, the court ordered that a special counselling session should be carried out, confined or restricted to the seats in respect of which admissions were made pursuant to the single judge’s directions.

“The counselling shall be a limited one, confined only to the number of seats offered and filled as a result of the single judge’s judgment. Such seats shall be offered to the NRI applicants solely on the basis of merit; the seats vacated by such merited students (in the other disciplines) shall then be offered to the beneficiaries of the single judge’s orders,” the court said.z

, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

However, if a medical college or institution decides to do away with such quota, reasonable notice of such a decision should be given to enable those aspiring to such seats to choose elsewhere, the bench headed by justice L Nageswara Rao said.

“Private colleges and institutions can decide whether, and to what extent, they wish to offer NRI quota. Yet that discretion should be tempered; if the discretion to have such a quota is (initially) exercised, it should (if) revised or modified (be done) reasonably, and within reasonable time,” the bench which also comprised justice S Ravindra Bhat held.

The court was hearing a plea filed by certain medical candidates challenging a judgment of the Rajasthan high court which had upheld the change of seat matrix for admission to post graduate (PG) medical and dental seats in colleges in the State of Rajasthan, for the academic year 2020-21, by eliminating the NRI quota.

The admission to PG medical and dental courses for academic year 2020-21 began sometime in early 2020. The procedure for selection for admissions began with the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), which was held in January, 2020.

The breakup of seats published on March 17, 2020, stated that 15 percent of the total intake in PG medical courses would be filled by NRI quota aspirants.

Subsequently, due to the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, a broad consensus emerged among private colleges that going ahead with the NRI quota would be inadvisable.

Therefore, on April 11, 2020 private colleges en masse decided not to proceed with the NRI quota and instead merge it with the 35 percent management quota seats, and proceeded to fill them entirely based upon rank based merit of the management quota candidates arranged in terms of their ranking and performance in the NEET.

NRI candidates were to be treated as management quota candidates and their applications too were considered on the basis of their overall merit in that category.

This was challenged before the Rajasthan high court and the challenge was upheld by the single judge who on July 10 ruled that only after exhausting the option of filling eligible NRI candidates in that quota that the remaining seats in the 15 percent could be treated as management quota seats.

A division bench of the high court, however, overturned this decision of the single judge on August 25 and approved the decision of the private collages to scrap NRI quota. By then, admissions were made by colleges based on single judge’s order and the division bench’s order meant that another round of admission to those seats had to be conducted.

The apex court noted that NRI quota is at the discretion of the private medical colleges and the same has been settled through previous judgments of the top court in TMA Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka and PA Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra.

However, it observed that the prevailing pandemic, the various steps which impelled the NRI quota candidates to commit themselves, and the eleventh hour policy change brought about by the colleges acted to the distinct disadvantage of these NRI candidates.

In the circumstances of the case and to do justice to all the parties, the court ordered that a special counselling session should be carried out, confined or restricted to the seats in respect of which admissions were made pursuant to the single judge’s directions.

“The counselling shall be a limited one, confined only to the number of seats offered and filled as a result of the single judge’s judgment. Such seats shall be offered to the NRI applicants solely on the basis of merit; the seats vacated by such merited students (in the other disciplines) shall then be offered to the beneficiaries of the single judge’s orders,” the court said.

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