Recently, The Honorable Supreme Court of India upheld the validity of 27% Other Backward class (OBC) reservations in All-India Quota – National Eligibility cum Entrance Test(NEET). A division bench comprising Jt. D.Y. Chandrachud & Jt. A.S. Bopanna gave the judgement (Neil Aurelio Nunes and others versus Union of India and others, 2022). The court observed Reservations enable such disadvantaged classes to overcome the barriers they face in effectively competing with forward classes and thus ensuring substantive equality. Exclusionary standard of merit serves to denigrate the dignity of those who face barriers in their advancement which are not of their own making
Rationale for upholding the Quota:
- Art. 15(4) & 15(5) are specific facets of the principle of substantive equality explained in Art 15(1) & are not exceptions to it. Articles 15 (4) and 15 (5) employ group identification as a method to achieve substantive equality.
- Competitive exams do not take into consideration the social, economic & culture disadvantage that a class has struggled through. Competitive exams follow a formal equality of opportunity. So, Merit cannot be gauged by the performance in these exams. Merit should be contextualized with reference to the disadvantageous state a class of people is in. Thereby, reservation is opposite to merit but furthers its distributive consequences. Reservation is remedying the structural disadvantage that certain groups suffer.
- AIQ is to allot seats in State-run Medical institutes to students from all across the country competing for them. The Pradeep Jain judgement that the AIQ seats must be filled by merit, must be read limited to merit vis-à-vis residence reservation. The SC did not hold in the case that AIQ is not permitted.
- Providing reservation in the AIQ seats is a policy decision of the Government, which will be subject to the contours of judicial review similar to every reservation policy.