NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Thursday stayed Maharashtra government's notification granting 10 per cent quota in admissions for the academic year 2019-20 to postgraduate medical courses for students of economically weaker sections (EWS) across all classes.
"Rules of game cannot be changed when the game is on" the top court said, pointing out that the admission process for PG Medical courses in Maharashtra for 2019-20 started long before the 10 per cent quota for EWS came into force by 103rd Constitutional amendment and subsequent notification by the state.
A vacation bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Aniruddha Bose said 10 per cent EWS quota cannot be granted at the cost of others unless additional seats are created by the Medical Council of India (MCI). The admissions for the 2019-20 academic year close on Friday.
"We are of the view, at this stage, that though the State may act under the enabling provision contained in Article 16(6) of the Constitution, as introduced by the 103rd Constitutional amendment, unless additional seats are sanctioned by the Medical Council of India, the existing seats cannot be subjected to the provisions of the aforesaid Constitutional amendment by issuing appropriate notifications, as has been done in this case," the bench said.
The balance between the competing claims of parties involved will be upset if the reserved category students are allowed to take admissions in the PG Medical course and at later stage their admissions were found to be untenable, it said.
"in a tentative view, on the basis thereof, we deem it proper to declare that the notification of the State of Maharashtra dated March 7, 2019, insofar as the admission to postgraduate medical courses is concerned, will have no application to the ongoing process of selection, so as to enable the representatives of the economically weaker sections to avail of the benefit of reservation for admission to postgraduate medical courses," it added.
The bench said that its directions are interim in nature and will be operative till the final decision is taken on the plea filed by three students of general category.
"While making the above declaration, we have kept in mind the need to balance the competing claims which balance could be upset by claim of equity, if the reserved category candidates are allowed to undergo the medical course(s) and in the event their admission is found to be untenable at a later stage of the present proceedings," it said.
The bench clarified that it is always open for the MCI to sanction additional seats for accommodating ten per cent students falling in EWS category if it deems fit.
It noted that the admission process for PG medical courses in Maharashtra started in November 2018 while the 103rd Constitutional amendment granting 10 per cent EWS quota was passed in January this year.
The bench said the Maharashtra government enforced the 10 EWS quota for PG medical courses by a notification issued on March 7. "Ten per cent of EWS quota cannot be granted to the ongoing admission process. You cannot change the rules of the game when the game is on," the bench said.
It said: "We are reminded of the time-tested principle of law that the modalities of selection cannot be changed after the initiation of the process."
The court noted that in a similar matter related to 16 per cent quota for Maratha community in admissions to educational institutions in Maharashtra, the Bombay High Court had recently held the Act granting reservation which came into effect on November 30, 2018, could not be made applicable as the admission process was initiated earlier on November 2, 2018.
It said that appeal against the Bombay high court order on Maratha reservation has also been dismissed by the apex court.
At the outset, senior advocate Gourab Banerji, appearing for the students of general category said that even MCI has decided that implementation of EWS quota should be deferred for the next academic year.
Advocate Nishant R Katneshwarkar, appearing for the state, told the bench that seats under 10 per cent quota were already filled up for this academic year.
The court's order came on a plea of Rajat Rajendra Agrawal and two others, all students from General Category claiming that unless additional seats are created, the ten per cent EWS quota will eat into their share of seats.
The students have challenged two circulars of the Maharashtra government by which 10 per cent EWS quota was enforced in PG medical and dental courses of the state.
They have sought a direction to the state not to implement 10 per cent reservation for EWS across all classes in the post-graduate medical and dental courses this academic year.