PG medical admissions: Chandigarh HC upholds MERIT, says domicile condition invalid
Chandigarh: "Merit must be the test when choosing the best," noting this decree by the honourable Supreme Court, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled the domicile condition for 32 PG medical seats at Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32 (GMCH 32); as "invalid" and "unsustainable to law."
There are a total of 128 PG medical seats at GMCH 32. Of which, 64 seats reserved under state quota are equally divided before this ruling, 32 were reserved under institutional preference pool for its own MBBS students and the rest 32 for those PG medical aspirants who are with Chandigarh background. The rest 64 PG medical seats are allotted in All India quota.
The verdict came in view of the petition filed by PG medical aspirants seeking admission to the MD/MS courses who found the following clause to be in breach of several pronouncements of the apex court as it tends to subvert merit by granting benefit to few by giving them preference in the matter of admission by giving primacy to their place of residence:-
Institutional Preference Pool (IP): PG medical Candidates who have passed their MBBS examination from Govt. Medical College & Hospital Chandigarh
UT Chandigarh Pool: This category will include PG medical candidates with a background of Chandigarh. To be eligible for this category candidate should fulfil any of the following criteria:
- Studied for a period of 5 years in Union Territory of Chandigarh at any time prior to the last date of the submission of the application.
- Candidates whose parents have resided in Union Territory of Chandigarh for a period of at least 5 years at any time prior to the last date of the submission of the application either in pursuit of a profession or holding of a job
- Children of persons who have held/hold immovable property in Union Territory of Chandigarh for a period of five years at any time prior to the last date of the submission of the application. The property should be in the name of the parents or the candidate himself/herself.
Challeging the above clauses before the HC, the PG medical aspirants, petitioners relied on an earlier SC judgment where the apex court had held, "If equality of opportunity for every person in the country is the constitutional guarantee, a candidate who gets more marks then another is entitled to preference for admission. Merit must be the test when choosing the best. "
They further submitted that the Medical Education Review Committee has also expressed the opinion that "all admissions to the post-graduate courses in any institution should be open to candidates on an all India basis and there should be no restriction regarding domicile in the State/UT in which the institution is located."
In response, the counsel on behalf of the UT Chandigarh contended that preference on the basis of domicile is indeed permissible and does not offend the constitutional scheme of things.
On the clauses, the court observed,
"Since there is only one college in Chandigarh, the benefit flowing from such a clause would merge with that of the institutional preference, thereby upsetting the balance provided by a 50% cap intended for Institutional Preference. This clause is, therefore, fraught with inherent dangers…"
"..Second situation would be that a candidate might have studied for 5 years in UT, Chandigarh at any time prior to the last date of the submission of the application which would also mean studying from Kindergarden to Class V or for any other period for that purpose. This would hardly provide any rationale to the logic of claiming a seat for a post graduate course under the UT, Chandigarh pool…"
"Similarly, clause (b) reads an entitlement for those whose parents have resided in UT, Chandigarh for a period of 5 years at any point of time prior to the last date of submission of the application either in pursuit of a profession or in holding a job. This too does not offer any rationale to convert it into a preference for the simple reason that a person may have settled down in Chandigarh briefly for a period of 5 years and then departed…
…The absurdity of this stands out if we visualize a situation, of a person having come to Chandigarh possibly at the time when it was coming up in the 1950s and departed after spending 5 years only to return after a lapse of more than 60 years and claim a preference since he had spent 5 years in Chandigarh at some time and fulfills the condition of being a resident of this town "at any time prior to the last date of submission of the application."
"Likewise, clause (c) also offers a similarly absurd situation of there being a case where a person has invested in property, may be at any point of time but choosing to give it up, and yet fulfilling the clause of owning a property for a period of 5 years at any time prior to the last of submission of the application"
Stating "none of these contingencies to our minds have any sustainable rationale as they even take into fold those persons who have had a brief flirtation with the city of Chandigarh either in education of their ward, in residence or through property which at best be termed to be a romantic liaison with the city but it cannot form a valid consideration for a preference while assessing merit to a Post Graduate course," the court found absolutely no rationale or nexus with the object sought to be achieved, assuming such a reservation was possible, we would have no hesitation in saying that such a clause in the prospectus is unsustainable.
The HC bench further relied the case on a SC verdict where the apex court had stated that it would be against national interest to admit in medical colleges or other institutions giving instruction in specialities, less meritorious students when more meritorious students are available, simply because the former are permanent residents or residents for a certain number of years in the State while the latter are not, though both categories are citizens of India.
Reaching its conclusion, the court took note of the SC's verdict,
"The primary consideration in selection of candidates for admission to the medical colleges must, therefore, be merit. The object of any rules which may be made for regulating admissions to the medical colleges must be to secure the best and most meritorious students.'"
"Whether consistently with the constitutional values, admissions to a medical college or any other institution of higher learning situate in a State can be confined to those who have their 'domicile' within the State or who are residents within the State for a specified number of years or can any reservation in admission be made for them so as to give them precedence over those who do not possess 'domicile' or residential qualification within the State, irrespective of merit..."
Ultimately, providing relief to PG medicos and disposing off the petition, the HC bench held,
"We would, therefore, conclude that in the matters of admission to Post Graduate courses such a reservation/preference which has its foundations in a long discarded principle i.e domicile would be unsustainable. Besides, all the clauses that have been introduced in the brochure and discussed to describe a candidate with background of Chandigarh would be unsustainable in law as they have no rationale to the objects sought to be achieved even if we have to assume that such a preference was permissible in law."
"We, therefore, strike down clause 2 (a) (b) and (c) of UT, Chandigarh Pool as being invalid and unsustainable in law. All admissions made by placing reliance on the above would as a logical corollary be also unsustainable. The only course available to the college is to fill up the seats through merit position obtained by candidates in NEET examination. Petitions stand disposed of in above terms."
Attached is the detailed judgment below: