The Madras High Court, in a significant judgment, has paved the way for OBC reservations in the All India Quota (AIQ) of medical seats. As significant as the judgment was the unity of virtually every political party in Tamil Nadu—barring the BJP—in moving the court demanding that the state’s 50% OBC quota be applied on the seats surrendered to the AIQ. Each state gives 15% of undergraduate medical and dental seats and 50% of postgraduate medical and dental seats to the AIQ.
While a 2006 law created a 27% OBC quota for medical admissions in central institutions, such a quota has not been applied in the seats surrendered by the state. Activists claim that thousands of seats that ought to have gone to OBC candidates have gone to general category students instead.
The court, in its judgment, made it clear that there was no legal or constitutional impediment over providing OBC reservations. Quotas are already there in the AIQ for SC/ST candidates and for those from economically weaker sections belonging to the general category. Further, TN’s laws provide for a 50% quota for OBCs; the Centre, in its submissions, was not averse to the quota if the total reservations did not exceed 50%.
The court has told the Centre to form a panel with the state to work out the modalities of the quota for the next academic year. While the Centre may appeal against the order, the court’s reasoning is straightforward and relies on the Union government’s own actions in implementing the SC/ST and EWS quotas in the AIQ. The order, while dealing only with TN, also opens the door to other states to make similar claims. In this context, the best way forward for the Centre may be to formulate a way for providing the OBC quota in the AIQ that can be applied across states. However, given accusations that the BJP-led government in the Centre has been attempting to dilute the OBC quota, it remains to be seen whether it is willing to do so.