The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quota raj curtailed in PG courses

New Delhi, Nov. 5: The Supreme Court has ruled that reservation in any form cannot exceed 50 per cent of the seats in postgraduate courses of professional colleges which teach engineering and medicine.

The five-judge full Constitution bench, which passed the order, also said that all candidates — both in the general and reserved categories — would have to sit for an all-India common entrance test. At present, a national entrance test is held for admissions to 25 per cent of the seats. The rest 75 per cent is the in-house quota.

This is the first major case since the controversial Mandal ruling in which the apex court has said that “reservation in any form shall not exceed 50 per cent”. In the instant case — Saurabh Chaudri and others vs the Union of India — the bench iterated that position.

The bench, presided over by Chief Justice V.. Khare, said institutions like the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and other professional colleges could admit 50 per cent of students on their own. But reservation — including institutional, state and central quotas — cannot exceed 50 per cent in any institution, be it government-controlled, aided, private or minority-run.

“Reservation by way of institutional preference should be confined to 50 per cent of the seats since it is in public interest,” Justice Khare said in his 51-page judgment. All the others on the bench — Justices R.C. Lahoti, B.. Agrawal, S.B. Sinha and A.R. Lakshmanan — concurred. Justices Lakshmanan and Sinha wrote separate but concurrent judgments.

The judges said in the cases of “non-minority educational institutions” aided by the central or state governments, states could prescribe guidelines for selection and admission of students. But, while issuing guidelines, the governments “have to take into consideration the constitutional mandate of the requirement of protective discrimination in matters of reservation”.

“Accordingly, the extent of reservation in no case can exceed 50 per cent of the seats,” the judges ruled.

The ruling will render redundant several state laws like the one enacted by Tamil Nadu, which fixed the reserved quota at 69 per cent of the total seats.

Justifying a common entrance test for “all the candidates throughout the country”, Justice Khare said it would help do away with the disparity in examinations.

“One test shall be held for all the candidates throughout the country,” the judge said. The order, he added, has been passed because, at present, a common test was being held for admissions to 25 per cent of the all-India quota and other tests were being conducted by various universities.

The court said an impartial and reputed body like the AIIMS would continue to hold the all-India entrance test for postgraduate courses till the Centre creates a competent body by an act of Parliament or otherwise.

However, the judgment did not set any clear guideline nor give any directive to the appellants in the case. Chaudri and the others, who have done their undergraduation in medicine or engineering outside Delhi, had approached the court after being denied admission in postgraduate courses in the capital for being “outsiders”.

All that the judges said was the country lacked a clear education policy and Parliament should enact a comprehensive legislation for regulating admissions in professional colleges.

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