New Delhi, 21 January, 2022: The Supreme Court has decided to uphold the 27% quota for Other Backward Class (OBC) in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) All India Quota (AIQ) seats for admission to Postgraduate (PG) medical and dental courses in state-run colleges. As per SC, merit should be socially contextualized and reconceptualized as an instrument that advances equality among all. In such a context, reservation should not be at odds with merit.
Note: The challenge to the validity of criteria for determining the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quota will be heard and decided by the top court in the third week of March, 2022.
SC’s Rationale Behind Upholding 27% Quota for OBCs
- Merit cannot be reduced to the aspect of performance in an open competitive examination, which offers formal equality of opportunity.
- Competitive examinations assess basic competency of candidates but are not reflective of their excellence, capabilities, and potential as these are shaped by lived experiences, on-site training, and individual character.
- Open competitive examinations do not reflect the social, economic, and cultural advantage that benefits certain classes and contributes to their success in such examinations.
- Non-conformity to reservation serves to firmly establish inequalities by marginalizing reserved candidates to the space of incompetence and incapabilities.
- There cannot be an assertion of over-inclusion where undeserving candidates are said to be benefitting from reservation because OBC candidates who fall in the creamy layer are excluded from taking the benefit of reservation.
- If open examinations present equality of opportunity to candidates to compete, then reservations ensure that the opportunities are distributed in such a way that backward classes are equally able to benefit from such opportunities.
Thus, there is no prohibition in introducing reservation for socially and educationally backward classes (or the OBCs) in PG courses. As per the bench, upholding reservation is the only manner in which merit can be a force that equalises inherited disadvantages and privileges.