The decision of the Bombay High Court at Goa to set aside the government's move to reserve 41 per cent of the State quota of seats in the post-graduate courses at the Goa Medical College and the Dental College has defused an irrational plan on quotas overriding merit.
The government in its order of May 2020 sought to implement 41 per cent of reservations to postgraduate courses at the GMC, without explaining the exigency when it had kept quotas out of this purview for 14 long years, ever since reservations were introduced in 2007. While proceeding with reservation in the PG courses at GMC, the government left critical areas open for questioning, including the decision to lower the cutoff marks for students from the reserved category, a move on which it built its case not to introduce quotas along with other institutions.
The 41 per cent reservation for SC, ST and OBC candidates from the State quota of seats tilts the scales heavily against the general category and sidelines merit. Such a sensitive decision needed an endorsement from those concerned, including the dean of GMC, because effectively the quota system would mean that the focus on merit is diluted.
If we may recall, in a letter dated March 16, 2020, the office of the dean wrote to the Under Secretary (Health) highlighting the fact that PG students deal with all emergencies and lives of patients, and hence the GMC had kept itself out of the quota system, and selection was done on merit of students based on the NEET-PG score. The letter also explained the allocation of seats across 20 specialities and how the reservation, if introduced, will do injustice to meritorious students.
The government, instead of going by the recommendation of the Goa Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, should have factored in these ground realities. The office of the dean had put it across loud and clear. There should have been a thorough study on this subject instead of going ahead with such a skewed policy decision. By contending that it had failed to implement it in 2007, and hence proceeding with it now, the government showed complete insensitivity to the issue.
Further, as the court pointed out, the decision was taken without even amending the rules of admission. It may be noted, the rules for admission to Goa (Postgraduate Degree and Diploma Courses of the Goa University at the GMC) Rules 2004 state that admission to the reserved category will be offered "strictly based on merit cum choice of the candidate".
This clearly shows that there was indeed no application of mind, raising doubts of a vested interest. Moreover, the Supreme Court is seized with various matters on reservations in postgraduate medical seats across the nation and hence there was a need to examine the issue in its totality. The high court decision has done timely justice to aspiring and meritorious students whose careers otherwise would have been jeopardized.