SC restrains Assam Govt from diverting any further EWS seats to NRI candidates in state medical colleges

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The plea before the court essentially challenged the validity of the Medical Colleges and Dental Colleges of Assam (Regulation of Admission into 1st year MBBS or BDS Courses) (Amendment) Rules 2023 which were notified by the Governor of Assam on July 17, 2023, providing therein a 7% quota for NRI/NRI Sponsored candidates

As an interim measure, the Supreme Court has restrained the Assam government from diverting any further seats meant for Economically Weaker Section candidates to the NRI candidates in admission to MBBS and BDS courses in state medical colleges.

A bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar issued notice to the Assam government and the National Medical Commission (NMC) on a petition filed by Hadijjuman Laskar and others. The court sought their respective response in the matter within two weeks.

The petitioners represented by Senior Advocate Indira Jaising and Advocate Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi contended that the criterion adopted and the arbitrary rejig defeated the very purpose of providing affirmative action for the EWS category candidates by prioritising the NRI/NRI sponsored candidates.

The decision virtually ensured that the EWS candidates are sidestepped while NRIs get the benefit of premier institutions, they alleged. 

The plea challenged the validity of the Medical Colleges and Dental Colleges of Assam (Regulation of Admission into 1st year MBBS or BDS Courses) (Amendment) Rules 2023 which were notified by the Governor of Assam on July 17, 2023 providing therein a 7% quota for NRI/NRI Sponsored candidates.

The petitioners challenged the same for it allegedly being ultra vires Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution as the same gave priority to NRI/NRI sponsored candidates without any reasonable classification and treating EWS category applicants differently.

Through the Rules, 2023, the existing 10% EWS quota was indicated to be allocated only after the deduction of 7% NRI/NRI sponsored seats in six premier medical colleges of Assam.

The petitioners said that the state government's decision was a brazen and complete violation of Articles 14, 15, 19, and 21 of the Constitution.

Before the court, the petitioners submitted that Assam has no private medical colleges, and all admissions through the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) conducted by the NMC, are made to 13 government medical colleges in the state.

In addition to over 49% reservations in the state quota seats in Assam's medical colleges, an additional 10% of seats were earlier reserved for EWS candidates, but by the impugned 2023 amendment, which provides a 7% quota for NRI/NRI sponsored candidates, such 10% EWS seats would be allotted from the total state quota seats after deduction of NRl/NRI sponsored seats belonging to Assam Medical College, Gauhati Medical College, Silchar Medical College, Jorhat Medical College, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College and Tezpur Medical College, the petitioners stated.

Their plea underscored that in the present academic year, there are a total of 1550 seats, allocated to 13 colleges in Assam and if 15% All India Quota (233 seats), 6 Central Pool Seats, 2 seats for Bhutan and 12 seats for North Eastern States of Nagaland and Meghalaya are reduced, the State Quota comprises a total of 1297 seats.

Out of this figure, if 27% reservation for OBC/MOBC (350 seats); 7% for SCs (91 seats); and 15% for STs (195 seats) are further reduced, the remainder seats would be 661 only, the petition stated. 

An additional 10% EWS reservation; as it were earlier, would have provided the EWS category students about 130 seats across the colleges making the total remainder to 531, however, the amended Rules, 2023 ensure that 7% seats (i.e. about 91 seats) would then be handed to candidates applying under NRI/NRI sponsored quota, the petitioner informed the court. 

Taking note of the submissions made, the bench ordered, “Issue notice, returnable after two weeks. Liberty is also granted to serve the Standing Counsel for the State of Assam”.

The court also ordered, "No further allocations/allotment shall be made to the seats or admissions in the quota originally earmarked for EWS category which has now been diverted to NRI quota”.

Case Title: Hadiujjaman Laskar and Another v. State of Assam and Others