SC Upholds OBC Quota in NEET
The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) candidates in the All India Quota seats for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for undergraduate and postgraduate medical and dental courses, noting that “reservation is not at odds with merit” in open competitive examinations.
GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Historical Underpinnings of the Indian Constitution, Constitutional Provisions and Features), GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives)
Dimensions of the Article:
- SC upheld OBC quota in NEET
- What is the All India Quota?
- The present situation of Medical Education and Healthcare workforce
- Constitutional Provisions regarding reservation
- Why is reservation needed in India?
- Indra Sawhney Case
- The court said an open competitive exam only ensures formal equality and does not end widespread ingrained inequalities in the availability of, and access to, educational facilities to certain classes of people, including the OBC.
- The court said the “idea of merit” based on scores in an exam requires “deeper scrutiny”.
- “While examinations are a necessary and convenient method of distributing educational opportunities, marks may not always be the best gauge of individual merit. If a high-scoring candidate does not use their talent to perform good actions, it would be difficult to call them meritorious merely because they scored high marks,” Justice Chandrachud reasoned.
- The fortitude and resilience required to uplift oneself from conditions of deprivation are equally reflective of individual calibre and merit, the court said.
What is the All India Quota?
- The AIQ scheme was introduced in 1986 under the directions of the Supreme Court to provide for domicile-free, merit-based opportunities to students from any state to study in a good medical college in any other state.
- A student domiciled in Uttar Pradesh, for example, may be eligible for admission to a seat in a state government medical college in West Bengal, provided she scores high enough in the national merit list. If her score is not high enough for AIQ, she may still hope for admission under the state quota in her home state.
- In deemed/central universities, ESIC, and Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), 100% seats are reserved under the AIQ.
The present situation of Medical Education and Healthcare workforce
Regarding Medical Education
- In the last six years, MBBS seats in the country have increased by 56% and the number of PG seats by 80%. In the last six years, almost 180 new medical colleges have been established and now the country has more than 500 medical colleges (of which only around 290 are government colleges).
- Medical education is the bedrock on which the needs of ‘human resources for health’, one of the major building blocks of any health system, are met.
- Today’s health professionals are required to have knowledge, skills, and professionalism to provide safe, effective, efficient, timely, and affordable care to people.
Regarding Healthcare workforce
- India’s availability of doctors per thousand population does come close to the World Health Organisation’s prescribed doctor-patient ratio of 1:1000 if we include all the registered allopathic, homeopathic, ayurvedic and unani doctors. But the number of doctors who practise is much lower.
- It is also far lower than many countries including Russia, the USA, and all the European Union countries where the ratio is above 3 doctors per one thousand population. Unless we increase the ratio to the level of better performing countries on the health front, poor people in India will continue to suffer.
- As a major impediment for achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) there is a serious shortage of health workers, especially doctors, in some northern States.
- Health workers are critical not just for the functioning of health systems but also for the preparedness of health systems in preventing, detecting and responding to threats posed by diseases such as COVID-19.
- The doctor-population ratio in northern States is far short of the required norm, while the southern States, barring Telangana, have enough doctors in possession- hence, the healthcare workforce crisis has been aggravated by the imbalances within the country.
- The problem of shortage of doctors and other support staff has been allowed to linger for the past several decades due to short-sighted policies of the institutions such as Medical Council of India
Constitutional Provisions Regarding Reservation
- Article 15 (4) allows the State to make any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. This provision was extended to admission in educational institutions by 93rd Amendment Act, 2006 (except minority educational institutions).
- Article 16 (4) allows State to make any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.
- Article 16(4A), empowers state to make provisions for reservation in matters of promotion to SC/ST employees.
- Article 46 states that the State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
- Article 243D provides reservation of seats for SCs and STs in every Panchayat.
- Article 243T provides reservation of seats for SCs and STs in every Municipality.
- Article 330 states that seats shall be reserved in the Lok Sabha for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes.
- Article 332 of the Constitution of India provides for reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States.
Why is Reservation Needed in India?
- To correct the historical injustice faced by backward castes in the country.
- To provide a level playing field for backward section as they cannot compete with those who have had the access of resources and means for centuries.
- To ensure adequate representation of backward classes in the services under the State. For advancement of backward classes.
- To ensure equality as basis of meritocracy i.e. all people must be brought to the same level before judging them on the basis of merit.
Indra Sawhney Case
Regarding cap on reservation quota
- The Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney vs Union of India had ruled that the total number of reserved seats/places/positions cannot exceed 50% of what is available, and that under the constitutional scheme of reservation, economic backwardness alone could not be a criterion.
- While 50% shall be the rule, it is necessary not to put out of consideration certain extraordinary situations inherent in the great diversity of this country and the people.
- It might happen that in far-flung and remote areas the population inhabiting those areas might, on account of their being out of the main stream of national life and in view of conditions peculiar to and characteristic to them, need to be treated in a different way, some relaxation in this strict rule may become imperative.
- In doing so, extreme caution is to be exercised and a special case made out.
- On June 17, 1995, Parliament, acting in its constituent capacity, adopted the seventy-seventh amendment by which clause (4A) was inserted into Article 16 to enable reservation to be made in promotion for SCs and STs.
- The validity of the 77th and 85th amendments to the Constitution and of the legislation enacted in pursuance of those amendments was challenged before the Supreme Court in the Nagaraj case.
- In its landmark 1992 decision in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India, the Supreme Court had held that reservations under Article 16(4) could only be provided at the time of entry into government service but not in matters of promotion.
- It added that the principle would operate only prospectively and not affect promotions already made and that reservation already provided in promotions shall continue in operation for a period of five years from the date of the judgment.
It also ruled that the creamy layer can be and must be excluded.
- Upholding the validity of Article 16 (4A), the court then said that it is an enabling provision. “The State is not bound to make reservation for the SCs and STs in promotions.
- But, if it seeks to do so, it must collect quantifiable data on three facets — the backwardness of the class; the inadequacy of the representation of that class in public employment; and the general efficiency of service as mandated by Article 335 would not be affected”.
- The court ruled that the constitutional amendments do not abrogate the fundamentals of equality.
-Source: The Hindu