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States can make provisions for reservation for in-service medical officers in PG courses, MCI has no power: Supreme Court

The judgment was pronounced this morning by a Constitution Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose

Shruti Mahajan

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court today held that the Medical Council of India (MCI) has no power to make any provision for reservation for in-service medical officers in respect of Post Graduate Degree Courses in Medical Colleges (Tamil Nadu Medical Officers’ Association & Ors v. Union of India & Ors).

The Court also held that the States were within their authority to provide for a separate source of entry in this respect.

"... the Medical Council of India which has been constituted under the provisions of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 is the creature of the statute in exercise of powers under Entry 66 List I and has no power to make any provision for reservation, more particularly, for in­service candidates by the concerned States, in exercise of powers under Entry 25 List III", the Court held.

The Court further held:

  • MCI provisions cannot affect the provisions under the legislative framework.

  • States will be within their power to provide for reservation for in-service officers. To this end, the judgment provides that States are "within their authority and/or legislative competence to provide for a separate source of entry for in­service candidates seeking admission to postgraduate degree courses in the exercise of powers under Entry 25 of List III."

  • States should provide for such reservation after requiring candidates to serve in rural, tribal, hilly areas etc. In this regard, the judgment states that the State's reservation policy "must provide that subsequent to obtaining the postgraduate degree by the concerned in­service doctors obtaining entry in degree courses through such separate channel serve the State in the rural, tribal and hilly areas at least for five years after obtaining the degree/diploma and for that they will execute bonds for such sum the respective States may consider fit and proper."

The Court also clarified that the ruling will only have prospective effect, clarifying that "any admissions given earlier taking a contrary view shall not be affected by this judgment."

The judgment was pronounced this morning by a Constitution Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose.

Justice MR Shah authored the majority opinion on behalf of four judges, whereas Justice Aniruddha Bose authored a separate opinion.

The Court had reserved its judgment on the issue of whether states can provide reservation for in-service candidates in postgraduate medical courses in July this year after concluding the hearing in the matter via video conferencing.

The petitioners had challenged Regulations 9(4) and (8) of the Post Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 2000, as framed by the Medical Council of India.

The primary argument of the petitioner was that the coordination and determination of standards in institutions for higher education is within the exclusive domain of the Union. Medical education being under Entry 25 of List III, though made subject to Entry 66 of List I, is a subject under the Concurrent List and thus, States were not denuded of their power to legislate on the manner and method for admissions to postgraduate medical courses.

When the case was previously before the three-judge Bench of Justices Kurian Joseph, Mohan M Shantanagoudar and Navin Sinha, the Centre had relied upon Dinesh Singh Chauhan case, in which it was held that the State cannot provide reservation to in-service candidates to PG Courses

The three-judge Bench headed by Justice Joseph had agreed with the petitioners' argument that in Dinesh Chauhan, the Court had not considered the legislative Entries and there was no reference to three Constitution Bench decisions of the Apex Court, namely, R Chitralekha and Another v. State of Mysore and Others, Chitra Ghosh and Another v. Union of India, and Modern Dental College and Research Centre and Others v. State of Madhya Pradesh and Others.

In April 2018, a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan had rejected a petition filed by the Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association demanding 50% reservation for in-service candidates in state quota seats.

The Bench had also directed the Tamil Nadu government to only conduct the NEET PG counselling process as per the current amended regulations specified by the MCI.

As per the petitioners, instead of granting incentive marks to government doctors serving in remote and difficult rural areas in PG admissions, the state government should be allowed to continue with its own quota policy and have the authority to make reservation in favour of in-service candidates for admission to PG medical courses.

During the hearing before the Constitution Bench via video conferencing arguments were made by Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, instructed by Advocates Ajay Bhargava, Vanita Bhargava, Saman Ahsan and Aayush Jain from Khaitan & Co LLP, for the petitioner. Senior Advocate Vikas Singh appeared for the Medical Council of India (MCI).

Read the Judgment:

Tamil Nadu Medical Officers’ Association & Ors v. Union of India & Ors.pdf
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