NEET Reservation: Supreme Court’s Detailed Order

On January 20, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that, Reservation should not be seen as being at odds with merit.

Key Points

  • Supreme Court ruled in favour of reservation for other backward classes (OBCs) in all India quota of (AIQ) NEET-PG seats.
  • Reservation for OBCs was introduced by the Central government on July 29, 2021.

Background

The detailed order over reservation came after SC’s decision on January 7, 2022 to include 27% reservation for OBCs and 10% for economically weaker section in counselling for NEET-PG courses, among the AIQ seats in medical or dental seats.

Court’s definition of merit

Court also provided a broad definition of merit. As per court, the merit should not be limited to individual agency or ability, however, it is envisioned as a social good which advances equality because Constitution espouses this value.

What was the issue?

General category doctors, who appeared for NEET-PG 2021, were opposing the reservation for OBCs and EWS. They argued that AIQ seats are for the meritorious so, providing any reservation in this category would be detrimental in national interest.

Court’s view

Responding to the argument of general category doctors, court said, an open competitive exam may ensure formal equality so that everyone get an equal opportunity to participate. However, inequalities in the availability of and access to educational facilities will led to deprivation of certain classes of people as they would be unable to effectively compete in such a system. Special provisions such as reservation enable the disadvantaged classes to do away with the barriers, they face in effectively competing with forward classes. This, special provisions ensure substantive equality.

Court’s view on merit

On the matter of merit, SC was of the view that, accepting merit as an individual’s performance in an open competitive examination will fail to recognize the dignity and worth of every individual. Such definition also hinders the realization of substantive equality. Court noted that, high scores in examination are not a proxy for merit.

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