NRI quota is at the discretion of the private college – Supreme Court

In the case of Nilay Gupta Vs Chairman Neet Pg Medical And Dental Admission/Counselling Board 2020 And Principal Govt. Dental College & Ors. [Civil Appeal No. 3345/2020] Supreme Court held that private institutions have the discretion to factor in an NRI or any other permissible quota. Yet that discretion should be tempered; if the discretion to have such a quota is exercised, it should be revised or modified reasonably, and within reasonable time.

The NEET PG 2020 examination had been held sometime in January, and the results were declared on 31.01.2020. The appellants were registered under the NRI category with the board for allotment of seats in the discipline of MD (Radiodiagnosis) in Rajasthan, sometime in the third week of March 2020. The Instruction Booklet for State Medical & Dental PG Seats Allotments, 2020, stipulated that the seat matrix would be announced in ‘due course’. Clause 19 of the Instruction Booklet required separate documents to be furnished for NRI candidates.

Mahatma Gandhi Medical College, Jaipur (hereafter ‘MGMC’), furnished a seat matrix to the State NEET Board showing that there would be no separate seats earmarked for the NRI quota, and that such NRI candidates would be considered for admission in the management quota. Feeling aggrieved, the two appellants, approached the Rajasthan High Court, contending that the decision to do away with the NRI quota was arbitrary.

It was stressed by the respondents that no student has a right to claim admission and that private medical colleges cannot be compelled to earmark a separate quota for NRI candidates if they chose not to do so out of volition. The learned Single Judge held that there can be no distinction between the NRI seats and management seats and it was only after exhausting the option of filling eligible NRI candidates in that quota that the remaining seats in the 15% could be treated as management quota seats.

In compliance with the directions of the single judge, the two appellants were given admission to courses of their choice. Since the judgment had far reaching repercussions, third party appeals were filed by students who had been offered MD/MDS seats in the management quota, and who faced threat to their admission; likewise, the board too appealed. The Division Bench allowed these appeals by the impugned judgment, by accepting the plea of the colleges, the board and the third-party appellants. The Division Bench reasoned that no student can claim a right to a NRI quota. The appellants approached the Apex court being aggrieved by a decision of a Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Court.

Court observed that, “The provisions of the Rajasthan University of Health Sciences Act, 20058 throws open admission to all courses, offered by medical colleges affiliated to the University, to be open to all, subject to such reservations as may be made in favour of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled tribe, Other backward classes, girl students and other categories in accordance with any law or orders of the State Government for the time being in force.”

Court relied on the case of P.A. Inamdar & Ors. v. State of Maharashtra (2005) 6 SCC 537 whose plain reading reveals that a provision for 15% NRI quota was a not compulsory; it was only potential. This court, however, imposed two conditions for admission under the NRI quota, firstly, that such seats should be utilized bona fide by NRIs only and for their children or wards and secondly, that within this quota, merit should not be given a complete go by.

Court held that, “It is evident that the NRI quota is neither sacrosanct, not inviolable in terms of existence in any given year, or its extent. However, if a medical college or institution or, for that matter, the state regulating authority, such as the board in the present case, decide to do away with it, reasonable notice of such a decision should be given to enable those aspiring to such seats to choose elsewhere, having regard to the prevailing conditions.”

The court gave the following direction, “In the circumstances of this case and to do justice to all the parties, this court is of the opinion that a special counselling session should be carried out by the board, confined or restricted to the seats in respect of which admissions were made pursuant to the single judge’s directions. In this counselling session, the board should ensure participation of the concerned colleges; the counselling shall be a limited one, confined only to the number of seats offered and filled as a result of the single judge’s judgment. Such seats shall be offered to the NRI applicants solely on the basis of merit; the seats vacated by such merited students (in the other disciplines) shall then be offered to the beneficiaries of the single judge’s orders. If for any reason, such students (i.e. lower down in NRI merit, who are offered seats in other disciplines) do not wish to take up the offer, the college concerned shall refund the fee collected from such student. It is also made clear that this special round of counselling should not disturb those admissions, where students had accepted the deletion of the NRI quota, and were accommodated in the management quota, unless they had approached the court at the earliest opportunity, in April 2020, before the judgment of the learned single judge.”

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