Responsibility Of The Government To Implement Access To Education At All Levels; Students In Central Pool Seat Allocation To Be Given Admission In Medical Colleges; Supreme Court

  • Pankaj Bajpai
  • 04:57 PM, 14 Apr 2021

The Supreme Court has directed for completion of admission formalities of a students at the Lady Hardinge Medical College (LHMC) as well as at Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) with immediate effect, and no delay should be attached of more than one week, if any. 

These present proceedings under Article 32 had been instituted by the two students from Ladakh, who had been nominated by the Administration of the Union Territory of Ladakh for admission to the MBBS degree course under the ‘central pool’ seats set apart by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Since these students were not admitted to their course of studies despite due nomination, the Apex Court took up the issue, as the fundamental rights of students from Ladakh to pursue professional education were implicated.

In order to obviate the hardship which has been caused to these students, the Apex Court also directed that all the students who are referred to in the Notification DHSL (21) of 2021 dated 19 February 2021, be granted admissions to the concerned institutions, if not already given so far. 

Advocate Anmol Chandan appearing for the Ministry of Health told Lawbeat that even though two students approached the High Court, the Supreme Court granted relief to all students under the notification. "This order has granted relief to all students and must be circulated," he said.

The Apex Court Division Bench of Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice M R Shah gave these general directions in order to obviate the possibility of each of the similarly placed students. 

Financial hardship should not prevent the students from getting admission in terms of the allocation which had been made in their favour legitimately under the central pool seats. Given that the issue raised in this case concerns access to education, albeit at the professional level, the Top Court emphasized on the importance of creating an enabling environment to make it possible for students such as the petitioners to pursue professional education. 

“While the right to pursue higher (professional) education has not been spelt out as a fundamental right in Part III of the Constitution, it bears emphasis that access to professional education is not a governmental largesse. Instead, the State has an affirmative obligation to facilitate access to education, at all levels. This obligation assumes far greater importance for students whose background imposes formidable obstacles on their path to accessing quality education” said the court. 

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights notes that “an empowerment right, education is the primary vehicle by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and obtain the means to participate fully in their communities”. 

The ICESCR committee also outlined of guarantee of non-discrimination to the most vulnerable groups,  as well as economic accessibility to ensure that financial constraints do not come in the way of accessing education.

Pursuant to these obligations which India has undertaken by being a signatory to the Covenant, the Union MHFW and the DHSL shall ensure proper co-ordination so that students allocated colleges under the central pool seats are not put to hardship in enrolling once they have been duly allocated their seats. Specifically, the Union MHFW and the DHSL can consider appointing a nodal officer tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that students who are duly nominated under the central pool seats are in fact admitted in their chosen course of study. 

Such an officer can serve as a one-point contact for students who may otherwise face numerous difficulties in securing their admission, even after they have been allocated the seat. The details of such officers can be widely publicized on the websites of the aforesaid two authorities. Such an institutional framework will ensure that students are not left in the lurch due to lack of help in securing their legitimate admission to the appropriate course.

Further, Article 26(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is a source of persuasive value, obligates every State Party to ensure that technical and professional education is made generally available and that higher education is equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. 

Court also noted that Mr Rupinder Singh Suri and Mr K M Nataraj approached these proceedings on behalf of the Union of India and the Administration of the Union Territory of Ladakh in a spirit of dialogue, as opposed to adopting an adversarial approach and appreciated the same.

Senior Advocate RS Suri, ASG and Advocate Anmol Chandan appeared for the Ministry of Health, ASG KM Nataraj appeared for the UT of Ladakh while the petitioner(s) were represented by AOR Neeraj Shekhar.

Case Title: Farazana Batool vs Union of India| Writ Petition (Civil) No 364 of 2021