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Private institutions have discretion in an NRI quota; but should be tempered: SC [NEET]

Nilay Gupta vs Chairman NEET PG Medical and Dental Admission/Counselling Board 2020 and Principal Govt. Dental College & Ors.

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3345/2020

DECIDED ON: 9.10.2020



The case was argued before Hon’ble Justice Mr.S.Ravindra Bhatt and Hon’ble Justice Mr.L.Nageswara Rao.


The facts of the present case is that the appellants are aggrieved by a decision of a Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Court, which upset the findings of a learned Single Judge of that High Court, who found that 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 Non-Resident Indian (NRI) quota was unsustainable in law.


The preceding observations ought to have been dispositive of the present case. Nevertheless, the court is of the opinion that the discretion of private managements who set up and manage medical colleges cannot be left to such an untrammelled degree as to result in unfairness to candidates. Undoubtedly, these private institutions have the discretion to factor in an NRI or any other permissible quota. Yet that discretion should be tempered; if the discretion to have such a quota is exercised, it should be revised or modified reasonably, and within reasonable time. This case presents some unusual features in that the admission calendar appears to have been thrown out of gear on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. (Para 30)

The appellants were admitted pursuant to the direction issued by the learned Single Judge, who had ruled that the deletion of such quota was contrary to law. Two sets of appeals and intervention applications arise for consideration: one, appeals arising from petitions filed by Dr. Nilay Gupta, and Dr. Surmil Sharma, the original writ petitioners and two, appeals filed by Dr. Arushi Mittal, Dr. Priyanka Sharma, Dr. Anjali Agarwal, Dr. Aditya Punia, Dr. Varun Bhargava and Dr. Deepak Ramnani, who are aggrieved by the impugned judgment inasmuch as the admissions were granted pursuant the single judge’s directions, despite not being parties to the original writ petition, have now been overturned.


The learned council for the appellants argued that argued that the action of the board, in countenancing the MGMC’s decision to abolish the NRI quota, after calling the students to opt for such quota, much after the declaration of NEET test results, is arbitrary.


Another learned council appearing for another appellants argued that there is a twin objective behind creation of this quota: first, to augment the coffers of the private college, and enable “cross-subsidization” of seats, for the benefit of meritorious but poor students, and secondly, to enable students who have been schooled abroad to culturally immerse themselves and find their roots in Indian society. Such being the case, the managements of private colleges could not have unilaterally and at the last moment, withdrawn this quota, to the detriment of the students who had consciously opted for it, and were left with little, or worse, no options. The learned council placed reliance on P.A Inamdar case.


It was also submitted that as a result of the single judge’s directions, another round of counseling had taken place and students were accommodated in the NRI quota; they had to give up the seats which they had previously opted for, in other medical colleges, to accept NRI seats, because that conformed to their choice of discipline.


The learned council for respondents argued that the NRI quota could not apply in the facts and circumstances of the case as the institutions (private colleges) had not claimed any seats under the NRI quota, for which the seat matrices were furnished by them. The allotment of seats was thus required to be made strictly in accordance with the merit of the candidates who had applied in the NRI quota, as well as for the management seats. It was urged that the learned Single Judge erred in usurping the powers of the Counselling Board and directing it to allot particular subjects.


It was also contented that by the learned council for intervenor that,

“The genesis of that quota can be traced to the observations in TMA Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka,2002 (8) SCC 481 that unaided privat colleges are “entitled to autonomy in their administration” even when they are bound to make merit-based admissions. The court had stated that a “certain percentage” (of the total intake) can be set apart to be filled by college managements, based on merit determined by a common test, to be conducted by the state or its agencies, or the college.” (Para 17).

The Court summarized the arguments and reasoned that the provisions of the Rajasthan University of Health Sciences Act, 2005 throws open admission to all courses, offered by medical colleges affiliated to the University, to be open to all, subject to reservations. It also reasoned that the NRI quota is neither sacrosanct, not inviolable in terms of existence in any given year, or its extent. However, if a medical college or institution or, for that matter, the state regulating authority, such as the board in the present case, decide to do away with it, reasonable notice of such a decision should be given to enable those aspiring to such seats to choose elsewhere, having regard to the prevailing conditions.


The Court held that

“In the circumstances of this case and to do justice to all the parties, this court is of the opinion that a special counselling session should be carried out by the board, confined or restricted to the seats in respect of which admissions were made pursuant to the single judge’s directions.” (Para 34).

The appeal and pending applications were disposed.


Kamalini


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