CHENNAI: In a serious setback to the Tamil Nadu government and students from the State Board stream, a division bench of the High Court held the government order reserving 85 per cent seats for these students as “artificial”, and dismissed a batch of petitions challenging the order of a single judge who had struck down the GO. Upholding the order of Justice K Ravichandra Baabu after hearing appeals from the State government and State Board students on Monday, Justice Nooty Ramamohana Rao and M Dhandapani also directed the government to take all necessary steps “expeditiously from now on to accomplish the task of filling the seats in MBBS/BDS courses before the deadline of August 31 approaches”.
Confounded over the NEET conundrum, the State had issued a government order, providing 85 per cent of seats for admission to undergraduate medical courses for 2017-18 to the State Board students.
Those from CBSE and other streams were allotted only the rest 15 per cent.This was struck down by the High Court on July 14, which led to the present appeals. All through the argument, the government held that NEET, for which questions were prepared by CBSE, was favourable to those from CBSE stream while students from the State Board were put at an immediate disadvantage. It also raised questions of equity and social justice. However, the bench was not convinced.
“When once the students drawn both from the Tamil Nadu State Board and the CBSE and other boards have taken the NEET, all of them have an equal and fair opportunity to compete against each other and establish their relative merit.” Thus, the allotment of 85 per cent on pro-rata basis, which is an attempt to further classify students, was based on a ‘completely artificial’ basis, the bench held.
The judges also questioned the premise on which the policy decision was adopted that the regulations framed by Medical Council of India provided freedom to provide reservation in medical/dental colleges for respective categories as applicable under the law in the respective states.“The policy decision, which attempted at a classification, is an arbitrary one being artificial, and it has no nexus with the object sought to be achieved... the classification... is an unrealistic and artificial one lacking any nexus to the object sought to be achieved,” the judges said in the order.
While accepting the State’s executive power under Article 162, the court reminded the government that the power could be utilised subject to two specific legal requisites: it shall not entrench upon any law made by the competent legislature and such power can be used for filling up the gaps, if any, by supplementing the existing legal regime, “but not by supplanting the provision having effect of law”.Dismissing the appeals, judges said they sincerely hoped the glorious past record of TN is brought back by the government by taking all steps to improve the teaching and other infrastructural facilities.