Madras HC upholds 7.5% quota for govt students in TN – Hindustan Times

Chennai News

The first bench of the Madras high court ruled in favour of the state by upholding the 7.5% reservation granted for government school students for medical admissions in Tamil Nadu . Reacting to the judgement, the DMK government said it is a huge victory for them as it provides a level playing field for medical aspirants from the economically weaker section.

“Within 10 months of our government which works towards social justice, this is our third legal victory,” said chief minister MK Stalin.

The court empathised with the petitioners and urged them to take this in the right spirit. “…like when we stand at the start line of a running race and if a person has a difficulty, we allow this person to start at some distance ahead (vertical reservation) or take him along with us (horizontal reservation) and will not say ‘get out if you can’t run like me’. After all, the Supreme Court says, ‘human sympathies’ are also part of ‘merit’,” the court order read.

The previous AIADMK regime had introduced the horizontal 7.5% reservation in 2020 after their efforts to scrap the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) had failed. The state had then enacted the Tamil Nadu Admission Act to undergraduate courses for students of the government schools. Since there was no immediate assent from the governor for over a month after the Assembly had passed this bill unanimously, the then AIADMK government took an executive route to establish the reservation.

A batch of petitions were filed in the court challenging the constitutional validity of the reservation. Senior counsel and DMK MP P Wilson appeared on behalf of the higher education department while senior counsel Kapil Sibal appeared on behalf of the other official respondents. The state government argued that the reservation quota was meant to bridge the gap between the rural-urban and rich-poor sections in medical admissions.

The first bench of chief justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and justice D Bharatha Chakravarthy also directed the state government to review the quota in five years. Those who studied from Class 6 to 12 in government schools and have cleared NEET are eligible for the quota.

After the reservation was implemented, out of 5,567 (MBBS and BDS) seats, 435 government students benefited for admissions in the academic year 2020-2021.

The petitioners contended that when legislation is made by the Union government making NEET mandatory, the state cannot be permitted to make any legislation which is contrary or dilutes it. The petitioners said that this violated the NMC (National Medical Commission) Act.

Leading the arguments on behalf of Tamil Nadu, Sibal submitted that the 7.5% reservation provided denotes the fact that the government school students as a class are socially and educationally backward. And therefore, it is justified under Article 15(4) and Article 15(5) of the Constitution which specifically gives the state the power to make special provision for advancement of socially and educationally backward class.

The second set of petitions were filed by the government aided schools saying that they were left out of the reservation which only includes schools run by the state government, panchayat union, municipalities, corporations, Adi-Dravidar and S T Welfare Schools among others. The court also accepted Sibal’s arguments that there was no discrimination in leaving out government-aided schools as the commission’s report showed that they fared better and their parental income was higher.

In a detailed 165 page order, the court, disagreeing with the petitioners said that the quota neither dispenses nor dilutes NEET or the minimum qualifying marks in the exam. It added that the state government’s mode of admissions is not in conflict with the NMC Act.

The court also extracted portions of the report stating 83% of the government students’ fathers and 65% of their mothers are daily wage labourers, 3% belong to Scheduled Tribe, 32% to Scheduled Castes, 37% to Most Backward Class and denotified communities. “These hard facts are the reality and cannot be brushed aside while determining equality,” the court said.



    Divya Chandrababu is an award-winning political and human rights journalist based in Chennai, India. Divya is presently Assistant Editor of the Hindustan Times where she covers Tamil Nadu & Puducherry. She started her career as a broadcast journalist at NDTV-Hindu where she anchored and wrote prime time news bulletins. Later, she covered politics, development, mental health, child and disability rights for The Times of India. Divya has been a journalism fellow for several programs including the Asia Journalism Fellowship at Singapore and the KAS Media Asia- The Caravan for narrative journalism. Divya has a master’s in politics and international studies from the University of Warwick, UK. As an independent journalist Divya has written for Indian and foreign publications on domestic and international affairs.