The Supreme Court on Friday held that NRI quota in PG Medical and Dental courses is not “sacrosanct” in any given academic year and private medical colleges are not obligated to earmark such seats for admissions. The top court said that if a medical college or institution or the state regulating authority decides to do away with such quota, then a reasonable notice of such a decision be issued to enable those aspiring for such seats to choose elsewhere.
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The verdict by a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat upheld the decision of the division bench of Rajasthan High Court which had ruled that private colleges are not obligated to earmark NRI quota upto the extent of 15 per cent of total seats.
The top court referred to the seven-judge verdict of 2005 in P A Inamdar versus State of Maharashtra and said that a plain reading of the judgement reveals that “a provision for 15 per cent NRI quota was not compulsory; it was only potential”. “As a result of the discussion, it is evident that the NRI quota is neither sacrosanct, not inviolable in terms of existence in any given year, or its extent”, it said.
It said, “if a medical college or institution or, for that matter, the state regulating authority, such as the board, decides 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 top court said that a combined effect of the provisions of the Medical Council of India Act and regulations with respect to admissions and the decisions of this court, is that private colleges and institutions which offer such professional and technical courses, have some elbow room; they can decide whether, and to what extent, they wish to offer NRI or management quotas. It said that there is nothing in the 2005 verdict to say that a 15 per cent NRI quota is an unqualified and unalterable part of the admission process in post graduate medical courses.
“It was, and remains within the discretionary authority of the management of private medical colleges, within their internal policy making domain,” the bench said. The top court said that 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,” the bench said.
The top court’s verdict came on a batch of petitions filed by students including those aspiring to take admissions under NRI quota, challenging the decision of a division bench of the Rajasthan High Court, which had set aside the findings of a single judge. The single judge had held that the change of seat matrix for admission to PG medical and dental seats in colleges in Rajasthan, for the academic year 2020-21, by eliminating the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) quota was unsustainable in law.
Some students, who appealed against the division bench verdict, were admitted pursuant to the direction issued by the single judge, who had ruled that the deletion of such quota was contrary to law. The NEET PG 2020 examination had been held in January, and the results were declared on January 31, 2020. Some of the students had applied for admission under the NRI quota.
The original notice giving the admission schedule said that verification of documents of status of NRI applicants was to be held on March 30 but the process was postponed later to April 14, 2020. However, on April 13, 2020, the State NEET PG Counselling board published a seat matrix in which the NRI quota was shown as zero. Aggrieved by the decisions of fixing zero seats for NRI quota, the students had approached the High Court and then the top court.
The top court noted that the break up of seats published on March 17, 2020, stated that 15 percent of the total intake in PG medical courses were to be filled by NRI/management quota aspirants. It noted that the sequence to be adopted was that the NRI candidates’ applications would be considered first for counselling and admissions and the ‘left over’ seats would then be filled from amongst merited management quota applicants, in addition to the 35 per cent management seat candidates.
“The colleges, however consciously decided not to go-ahead with the NRI quota – a decision, the basis of which is explained as the assessment by such private colleges offering MD courses, that there was a likelihood that many NRI seats would go unfilled,” it said, adding that the reason may be of COVID-19 pandemic.
The top court said 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.
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