The Supreme Court has held that the NEET cut-off percentile for admissions to BDS (dental) seats be reduced and admissions will be made till 18th February 2021 to fill the seats lying vacant.
Setting aside the impugned order of Telangana High Court, a Division Bench of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Krishna Murari, said, “An administrative decision is flawed if it is illegal. There is no unfettered discretion in public law. Discretion conferred on an authority has to be necessarily exercised only for the purpose provided in a Statute.”
The petitioner herein approached the present Top Court, challenging the decision of the first respondent of not lowering down the minimum marks for admission to Bachelors of Dental Science, for the academic year 2020-2021. It is heard with another Writ Petition seeking similar direction for the State of Andhra Pradesh.
Proviso to Sub-Regulation (ii) of Regulation II of the Dental Council of India, revised BDS Course Regulations, 2007 empowers the Central Government to lower the minimum marks required for admission to BDS in consultation with the Dental Council of India when sufficient number of candidates in the respective categories fail to secure minimum marks in the NEET entrance test. It is the case of the petitioner that despite the recommendation of the second respondent, the government has arbitrarily and unreasonably not acted upon the same.
Issue: Whether the exercise of discretion by the first Respondent is for the purpose specified in the Regulations and whether irrelevant considerations have been taken into account making the decision irrational?
There are three reasons given by the respondent authority for not lowering the minimum marks;
- Ratio of available seats vis-a-vis eligible candidates is 1:7 and therefore there is no dearth of eligible candidates.
- There is no need to reduce the minimum mark as there are sufficient number of Dentists in India.
- Lack of keenness of students to join BDS, especially in private colleges which charge exorbitant fee.
Upon the first reason as aforementioned, Court noted that the Government erred in calculating the correct ratio of seats available as NEET (UG) 2020 included admissions to diverse medical courses, namely, MBBS, BDS, UG AYUSH and many others. Moreover, institutions like AIIMS and ZIPMER conducting their separate entrance increased the total availability, amounting to a ratio of 1:4.5 and not 7, as suggested by the Government. Court said, “The decision which materially suffers from the blemish of overlooking or ignoring, wilfully or otherwise, vital facts bearing on the decision is bad in law.”
On the aspect of consultation, Court observed that the first respondent did not seem to comply with the proviso to Sub Regulation (ii) of Regulation II.
Court found no force in the second reason as provided by the respondent authority.
For the third and last reason, Court said, “The Managements of private Dental Colleges shall consider reducing the fee charged by them to encourage students to join the Colleges.”
Court conclusively set aside the decision of the first respondent dated 30.12.2020, to not reduce the minimum marks for admission to BDS course on the ground of irrationality and further directed that the vacant seats in first year BDS course for the year 2020-2021 shall be filled up from the candidates participated in the NEET (UG) after lowering the percentile mark by 10 percentile. General category who have secured 40 percentile shall be eligible for admission.
Similarly, students belonging to the SC/ST/OBC categories shall be qualified if they have secured 30 percentile. General candidates with bench mark disabilities specified under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, would be eligible if they have secured 35 percentile.
The entire process shall strictly be in accordance with merit and shall be completed by 18.02.2021.
The writ petitioners were represented by Mr. Maninder Singh, Sr. Adv., Mr. Ramesh Allanki, Adv., Mr. Siddhant Buxy, Advocate-on-Record; and Mr. Krishna Dev Jagarlamudi, Advocate-on-Record.
Case Title: Harshit Agarwal v. Union of India | WP (C) No. 54 of 2021 with WP (C) No. 95 of 2021.