Two years on, the Supreme Court has reopened the contentious issue and sought setting up of a Constitution Bench to outline the distribution of powers between Centre and states. The Court has referred to a Constitution Bench to urgently consider whether reservation in favour of in-service candidates in respect of 50% of the seats granted to the States under the Post Graduate Medical Education Regulations of 2000, as framed by the Medical Council of India, is unconstitutional.

A three-judge Bench, led by Justice Kurian Joseph, asked the petitioner, Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association, to mention the case before the Chief Justice of India on April 16. It further issued a notice to States concerned, Union of India and Medical Council of India.

Under scanner of the apex court are two provisions of the 2000 Regulations.

Regulation 9(4) provides that while “determining the merit of the candidates who are in service of government/public authority, weightage in the marks may be given as an incentive up to 10% of the marks obtained for each year of service in remote and/or difficult areas or rural areas up to maximum of 30% of the marks obtained in National Eligibility-cum Entrance Test.”

The Regulations said remote, difficult areas or rural areas would be notified by the State government from time to time.

Regulation 9(8) mandates that 50% of the seats in postgraduate diploma courses shall be reserved for Medical Officers in the government service, who have served for at least three years in remote, difficult areas or rural areas.

The petitioners have contended that though the power of “the coordination and determination of standards in institutions for higher education” is within the exclusive domain of the Union, the fact that “medical education” comes under the Concurrent List implies that the State is not denuded of powers to legislate on the manner and method for admissions to postgraduate medical courses.

The Centre and the Medical Council of India countered that the issue is under its “exclusive domain of the Union” and the State cannot legislate on the subject.

On Friday, a three-judge bench, headed by Justice Kurian Joseph, reignited the legal debate over the issue, which was earlier ruled in favour of the Central government.

The bench, also comprising Justices MM Shantanagoudar and Navin Sinha, referred the matter to the Chief Justice of India for setting up a Constitution Bench to settle the issue.

The Court said that the matter should be placed before the CJI “emergently” in view of the fact that the counselling has either commenced or in some states, it is only about to commence.

“In the above circumstances, we are of the view that these writ petitions require consideration by a larger Bench. Accordingly, place the matters before the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India for consideration by a larger Bench, emergently,” directed the Court.

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