Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors.
Writ Petition (Civil) No. 196 of 2018.
Decided on 31.08.2020
Bench: Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah, Aniruddha Bose, JJ.
Facts: Tamil Nadu Medical Officer’s Association and others filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court which challenged the Regulations 9(4) and 9(8) of the Post Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 2000 which were framed by the Medical Council of India.
The petitioners contended that “the co-ordination and determination of standards in institution for higher education” lies within the exclusive domain of the Union. But the Medical Education which falls under Entry 25 of List III, though is subject to Entry 66 of List I, is a subject under the Concurrent list of the Constitution and hence, States have the power to legislate on the manner and method of admissions to the post graduate medical courses.
The contention was that giving reservation benefits to the in-service doctors in the admission for Post Graduate degree courses would encourage those working in the government hospital and rural areas, therefore, the State Government should be allowed to continue with their reservation policy.
The petitions are heard by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court. M.R Shah, J wrote majority opinion on behalf of four judges and Anirudha Bose, J wrote separate concurring judgement.
Both of them held that the Medical Council of India has no power to make reservation for in-service candidates in PG Medical Courses in any particular state and States can make regulations which provide for reservation for in-service doctors in PG Medical Courses.
1. Issue: What is the scope and ambit of Entry 66 of List I of the Constitution in Seventh Schedule? Is the State denuded of its power to legislate on the manner and method of admission to PG Medical Courses by virtue of this Entry and the entire filed of admission in higher educational institutes is covered by this Entry?
Per M.R Shah, J: The Court observed that Entry 66 of List I is a specific entry having a very specific and limited scope; it deals with “Co-ordination and determination of Standards” in institutions of higher education or research as well as scientific and technical institutions. The words “co-ordination and determination of standards” would mean the laying down of the said standards and therefore exclusive domain is given to the Union when it comes to prescribe the standards for institutions of higher learning. States have the power to make provisions for admission, or looking to the requirements in that particular state.
Per Anirudha Bose, J: The Court observed that there is no plenary legislative power of the Union covering entire filed of admission in higher educational institutions. All aspects of admission cannot be said to be covered by Entry 66 of the Union List, even if the entire admission process is incorporated in a single code. There can be rules on facets of admission process in institutions of higher education framed by the State legislature which would not have impact on the subjects enumerated against Entry 66 of List I and thus would not result in conflict with that Entry.
2. Issue: Whether the Regulation 9 of MCI Regulations, 2000 is a complete code in itself and affects the rights of the State to provide for reservation for in-service candidates seeking admission to postgraduate degree courses?
Per M. R Shah, J: On this point the Court observed that, the 2000 Regulations are framed by the Medical Council of India in exercise of its powers conferred under Section 33 of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and this Act has been passed by the Union in exercise of the power conferred by Entry 66 List I. Therefore, the main source of this power of Medical Council of India comes from Entry 66 List I. When it comes to regulating “education” which includes even medical education as well as Universities, that is prescribed in Entry 25 of List III. Medical Council of India would not have the authority or jurisdiction to frame any regulations with respect to reservation or making provision for providing for a separate source of entry for in-service candidates seeking admission to postgraduate courses. Therefore, the court held that it cannot be construed that Regulation 9 is a complete code with respect to providing reservation or making special provision like providing separate source of entry for in-service candidates within the State quota and subject to fulfilling of other criteria fixed and provided by MCI.
Per Anirudha Bose, J: It was observed that the Regulation 9 is not a complete code which covers every feature of admission to postgraduate degree courses in medical education. If the code does not refer to certain matters, which do not impact on or dilute the main subject for which the code is made, then the State is not barred from making provisions for such uncovered areas. 2000 Regulations are not so overwhelming in its scope and extent that entire field of admission to postgraduate medical course stands covered by it.
The facets of admission to the postgraduate medical degree course from a separate entry channel comprising of in-service doctors is not covered by the Regulation 9 of the 2000 Regulations which owes its origin to Entry 66 of List I, thus it is not a complete code and it would be permissible for the States to lay down their own norms, which are not covered by the Union legislations.
3. Issue: Whether the States have a power to reserve seats for admission in Post Graduate Degree medical courses for the in-service doctors’ i.e, medical professionals working in government hospitals within that State under Entry 25 of List III?
Per M.R Shah, J: The Court observed that, the proviso to the Regulation 4 enables the States by conferring the discretion for weightage in marks to be given to the in-service candidates for the services rendered in remote or difficult areas. The proviso has nothing to do with the reservation or making special provision to provide for a separate source of entry for in-service candidates seeking admission to postgraduate courses. Thus, Regulation 9(4) cannot be said to be taking away the power of the States under Entry 25 of List III, to provide for a separate source of entry for in-service candidates seeking admission to postgraduate degree courses. Any contrary view would affect the right of the States under Entry 25 List III.
The legislative disability will occur only when there is a Union legislation covering the same subject on which the State has undertaken the legislative exercise and the State’s legislative instrument is found to be repugnant to the latter. Regulation 9 of the MCI Regulations, 2000 does not deal with or make provisions for reservation or affect the legislative competence and authority of the concerned states to make reservation and Therefore, the concerned States are in their authority or legislative competence to provide for a separate source of entry for in-service candidates seeking admission to postgraduate degree courses in exercise of powers under Entry 25 List III.
The Court also pointed out that, there is a legitimate and rational basis in providing a separate source of entry for in-service candidates in order to encourage them to offer their services and expertise to the state. There is a sufficient nexus with the larger goal of equalization of educational opportunities. The action of the State in providing for the in-service quota is in the discharge of its positive constitutional obligations to promote and provide better health care facilities for its citizens. This is in furtherance of the objective of promotion of public health which is also the power of the State under Entry 6 of List II. Thus, when the State provides a separate source of admission for in-service doctors as a distinct class and within the State quota, the State is within its power to provide such separate source in exercise of its powers under Entry 25 List III read with Entry 6 List II.
The court also held that the Regulation 9 of the MCI Regulations, 2000 can be declared ultra vires on the ground of being arbitrary, discriminatory and violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India, to the extent of not providing any reservation for in-service candidates working in rural, tribal and difficult areas. If provisions are made for the reservation of in-service candidates for admission to postgraduate diploma courses then there is no reason as to on what basis similar in-service reservation is not permissible for admission to post-graduate courses. If the concept of in-service reservation is permissible then opposition to reservation for postgraduate degree courses is unreasonable and irrational
Per Anirudha Bose, J: The Court observed that doctors in employment of the States form a separate and distinct class and for the purpose of admission in postgraduate degree courses they can be given certain elements of preference. Setting apart specified percentage of seats for in-service doctors in postgraduate medical degree courses is referable to matters of admissions and not standards of education. If the State authorities provide an independent channel of entry for in-service doctors in postgraduate medical degree courses, who fulfil the minimum standards laid down by the Regulation 9 then that would not be in breach of the Constitutional scheme. The separate entry-channel for the in-service doctors is integral to the admission norms and would be relatable to the Entry 25 of List III. Regulation 9 does not prescribe specific bar on the State authorities to provide separate entry channel for the in-service doctors.
Reservation for in-service doctors has been a long standing practise and the rationale behind such reservation is reasonable. Therefore, the admission process which stipulates a distinct source of entry for in-service candidates will not constitute breach of Regulation 9 of 2000 regulations provided that the minimum standards mandated by the said regulations are adhered to. States are well within their power to provide for reservation for in-service candidates and they should provide for such reservation after requiring candidates to serve in rural, tribal or hilly areas subsequent to obtaining the postgraduate degree by the concerned in-service doctors.