The University of Delhi (hereafter abbreviated as DU) offers multiple post graduate courses in the faculty of medicine, all of which put together makes 250 seats. There are three medical colleges in Delhi, two of them affiliated to, and one being maintained by DU, together they turnout annually 400 medical graduates, these graduates get house jobs in local hospitals and get qualified for admission in post graduate courses. As DU graduates were not considered for admission in other universities due to various regional hurdles, state domicile, registration with state medical council etc. The DU reserved some seats of the post graduate course for DU graduates. Until April 1978 DU provided reservation of 48% for DU graduates only, and the remaining 52% for others as well as DU graduates, after that the reserved seats were increased from 48% to 70%. In the year 1980 a writ petition was filed in the supreme court of India against this institutional reservation in DU, the petitioner Dr. Ramesh, who was a madras university graduate, whose father (a central government employee) was transferred to Delhi, wanted to pursue his post graduate course in dermatology from DU, he applied for the same and gave the common admission test, in which he secured enough marks to get admission, but he wasn’t allotted a seat. The petitioner admittedly would have secured a seat if the reservation wasn’t increased from 48% to 70%.
This case broadly deals with the controversial issue of reservation, institutional reservation for graduates from the same university to be more precise. The petitioner’s contention under article 32 is that this reservation is violative of article 14, which says that the state shall not deny to any person equality before law or equal protection of law, and article 16, which says that there shall be equal opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state. It was also argued that the university receives financial aid from the central government, which collects its revenues through taxes from the whole country so the benefit of admission should not be limited to the people of New Delhi only. Another matter of disturbance arising out of this case is the practice of institutional reservation in post graduate courses practiced pan India. Medical colleges across the country usually have reserved seats in their post graduate course for medical graduates from its own university, this is done because usually after graduating students get jobs as in-house doctors in local hospitals making them eligible for post graduate degree and they can easily pursue their post graduation from the same university because if a student goes to another state to pursue his/her post graduation he/she would need to get registered in state medical association first, sometimes there is a regional reservation in a particular university because of backwardness of certain region, there also is clause of state medical service which asks for services in such state for a particular period of time to be eligible for a post graduation degree.
Apart from this, there was also an issue of factual paucity rightly pointed out by the honourable justices in their judgement. It was observed that a case of such socio-legal importance affecting the country’s future growth and development needs the court to be fed with nutritious facts and concrete arguments, which were not available in this case; this was a major reason preventing the court to take a definitive stance in its judgement.
The honourable Supreme Court after hearing all the arguments gave its verdict on 28, January 1980. The judgement delivered by Iyer, J. reluctantly Repelled the challenge of the petitioner, and made two directions in this case, first; the court said that , if the petitioner had secured enough marks for admission if it wasn’t for the 70% reservation which the court considered to be on the high side, then he should be admitted to the post graduate diploma course (since he was pursuing the diploma course at that time), if the attendance rule do not come in way, and the medical council makes an exception of adding one more seat that year. And, second; the college should form a time bound committee not more than two months from now, which will exclusively look into the matter of the percentage of institutional reservation provided to DU graduates from the prism of article 14(equal opportunity to all Indians), but also taking into consideration other factors such as, fair treatment to DU graduates since they are also not considered for admission in other universities on account of various regional hurdles discussed above. This committee will make recommendations to the university on the subject of institutional reservation and matters related to that, on the basis of factual and statistical analysis of reservation provided by other universities and matters related to that. The committee is advised to have a constitutional expert as a member because of the intricate matter of right to equal treatment to all, and it is also advised to have a representative of the Indian medical council on board, and the committee’s report should be considered by the University for Next year’s Admissions.
The Judgment of Krishna Iyer, and O. Chinnappa Reddy, JJ was delivered by Iyer, J., R. S. Pathak, J. gave a separate concurring Opinion. The judgement delivered by justice Krishna iyer had its own merits and demerits, the two directions made by the court were a welcome decision, but of course the critical matter of institutional reservation provided by universities all over India was left untouched, the court however observed that although 70% reservation was on the high side the court needs a substantial amount of facts and material to take a firm stand on institutional reservation practiced in all parts of the country, the court called out on the counsellors several times to present some more facts outside the ambit of the case but pertinent to the subject of reservation but there was no positive response which compelled the court to leave that issue in their judgement. The judges were of the view that article 14 of the third part of the constitution does not explicitly provide for institutional reservation but it is still consistent with the fundamental right of equal opportunity to all, if the reservation is carefully calculated considering all the facts and figures. On this point, the judges made the correct decision of directing the college to constitute a committee to advice the college on this matter. The committee which would consist of a constitutional expert and a representative of the Indian medical association (now-national medical commission) will surely be helpful because it has the responsibility of studying the behemoth task of institutional reservation keeping in mind the rule of equality of opportunity which will be helpful in their course of action. Now the core point of the plea filed by Dr. Ramesh was his admission in the post graduate course of dermatology, the judges considering the fact that he secured enough marks to be allotted a seat directed the authorities to admit him to the course, if the rules of attendance are not an obstacle and the medical council agrees to add one more seat. This was also a welcome decision as it did justice to the petitioner and upheld the rule of equality to all Indians irrespective of their place of birth. The judgement delivered by justice Krishna Iyer made an observation that although equal opportunity to all is a matter of immense pertinence, it cannot be used as an excuse to unjust classification of the people of India on the basis of provinces. On the other hand justice R.S. pathak was of the view that classification is fundamental to the practice of providing equal opportunity to all, he observed that there are certain people at a certain place or coming from a certain background which automatically makes them vulnerable and those people grouped together make a certain type of class which is pertinent to provide a fair chance to them. In this situation the author observes that the observations held by justice R.S. pathak are accurate because, the constitution provides for fair treatment to all and to uphold this right, the decision makers are compulsorily required to classify/identify those vulnerable sections of the society who require some kind of assistance.