The Tamil Nadu government today moved the Madras High Court against its single-judge verdict which had quashed the government’s order reserving 85 per cent of MBBS and BDS seats for state board students and only 15 per cent for those of CBSE and other boards. A single-judge bench of Justice K Ravichandrababu had quashed the government’s order on July 14 holding that it amounted to discrimination among equals. In its appeal against the July 14 verdict, the government submitted that the judge ought to have considered that though the National Eligibility cum entrance test (NEET) was common for all students of various boards, more than 50 per cent of the questions were based on CBSE syllabus and it caused an inherent inequality. It contended that this showed that state board students and those who studied in CBSE board were not equals.
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“Hence unequals cannot be treated as equals as per the Article 14 of the Constitution,” the government said, adding it had no other alternative but to take a policy decision of reservation. “To ensure equal opportunity to students of various boards, normalisation had been followed till now under the ‘Tamil Nadu Admission in Professional Educational Institutions Act, 2006,” the government said in its appeal. This was upheld by a division bench of the high court and it constitutional validity has also been upheld by the Supreme Court, it added. The state government said the apex court’s May 2, 2016 judgement on a civil appeal had specifically upheld the power of state governments to legislate on admissions.
It submitted that though the Centre has amended the Medical Council of India Act, 1956 and the Dentist Act,1948, for conducting NEET exam, the state government has the powers to enact a separate law. The appeal also said that two bills passed by the state assembly, seeking exemption from NEET, have not been rejected by the Union government so far. The single-judge bench ought to have considered that NEET places students from the state board at ‘a total disadvantage’ vis-à-vis CBSE students, as the syllabus, methodology and state board content and exam pattern are quite different.
The state government further contended that the Union government, while introducing NEET, had accepted the need for admission based on State-Wise NEET merit list to protect the rights of students studying in each state, recognising the different conditions prevailing in each state. Hence the government prayed that the order by the single-judge bench be set aside. On a bunch of petitions by some CBSE students challenging the June 22 order of the Tamil Nadu government reserving 85 per cent of MBBS and BDS seats for state board students, Justice K Ravichandrababu had on July 14 held that the impugned reservation was bad in law and violated Article 14 of the Constitution (Equality before law).
“There is no difficulty for this court to come to the conclusion that the impugned reservation amounts to discrimination among equals and that it violates Art 14 of the Constitution. “It is an arbitrary exercise of power which is totally unreasonable as under the guise of providing level playing, filed, it makes the equals unequals,” the Judge had said.