The Supreme Court Wednesday reserved its order on a batch of petitions challenging the Medical Council of India’s regulations dealing with reservation to in-service candidates in admission to post-graduate medical courses in respect of 50 percent seats allocated to states.
Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association and others have assailed two amended provisions of the Post Graduate Medical Education Regulations which provide the criteria for granting quota or incentive marks to government doctors who serve in rural or remote areas, in admissions to PG courses.
Regulation 9 (IV) says the reservation of seats in medical colleges for respective categories in PG courses shall be as per applicable laws of the states and UTs and an all- India and state-wise merit list of the eligible candidates shall be prepared on the basis of marks obtained by them in National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET).
It further provides that doctors in government service may be given weightage as an incentive of up to 10 percent of the marks obtained for each year of service in “remote and/or difficult areas or rural areas up to a maximum of 30 percent” of the marks obtained in NEET. Regulation VIII, however, provides for 50 percent reservation in seats in PG Diploma courses for government doctors.
The Tamil Nadu doctors association alleged that though 50 percent quota for in-service doctors are allowed in diploma courses, the system of grant of incentive marks is adopted for granting admissions in PG courses.
They alleged that the power of “the coordination and determination of standards in institutions for higher education” falls in the Union List and the fact that “medical education” comes under Concurrent List implies that states are not denuded of powers to legislate on the manner and method for admissions to PG medical courses.
A five-judge constitution bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan heard arguments on behalf of the Centre, MCI, Tamil Nadu doctors’ body, Kerala and Haryana in favour and against the regulations and reserved its interim order.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, representing Tamil Nadu doctors’s body, referred to various judgments and constitutional schemes and said that a state was empowered to devise a mechanism to allocate 50 percent of its seats to candidates.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for MCI, said the state cannot be allowed to “lower” the standard of selection of candidates by flouting the MCI regulations. He sought to distinguish between the PG diploma courses and the PG courses and submitted that there was no need to pass any interim order.
Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, representing the Centre, said the issue fell under “exclusive domain” of the Union and the state cannot legislate on it. A few days ago, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph had referred to a constitution bench the pleas, challenging the MCI regulations.
NEET conducts examination for admissions in Medical PG courses and 50 percent seats are filled by the Centre and 50 percent seats are filled by the states which may give incentive marks up to 30 percent to government doctors who are serving in rural and remote areas. Tamil Nadu and some states are seeking autonomy to decide the manner in which they would fill up their 50 percent seats by devising norms on quota and challenge the MCI regulations to that effect.