What is the new reservation for OBCs and for EWS under AIQ scheme in medical education?

The OBC students from across the country will now be able to avail of this reservation in AIQ Scheme to compete for seats in any state

In a landmark decision, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has decided to provide 27 percent reservation for OBCs and 10 percent reservation for Economically Weaker Section (EWS) in the All India Quota (AIQ) Scheme for undergraduate and postgraduate medical / dental courses (MBBS / MD / MS / Diploma / BDS / MDS) from the current academic year 2021-22.

The decision was taken on Monday and Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed the concerned Union ministries to facilitate an effective solution to this long-pending issue.

This decision would benefit approximately 1,500 OBC students in MBBS and 2,500 OBC students every year in postgraduation and also around 550 EWS students in MBBS and around 1,000 EWS students in postgraduation.

What is the All India Quota (AIQ) Scheme? The AIQ Scheme was introduced in 1986 under the directions of the Supreme Court to provide for domicile-free merit-based opportunities to students from any State to aspire to study in a good medical college located in another state.

The AIQ consists of 15 percent of total available UG seats and 50 percent of total available PG seats in government medical colleges. Initially, there was no reservation in AIQ Scheme up to 2007.

In 2007, the Supreme Court introduced reservations of 15 percent for SCs and 7.5 percent for STs in the AIQ Scheme. When the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act became effective in 2007 providing for uniform 27 percent reservation to OBCs, the same was implemented in all the Central Educational Institutions viz. Safdarjung Hospital, Lady Harding Medical College, Aligarh Muslim University and Banaras Hindu University among others.

However, this was not extended to the AIQ seats of state medical and dental colleges.

What this means: The OBC students from across the country will now be able to avail of this reservation in AIQ Scheme to compete for seats in any state. Being a Central scheme, the Central List of OBCs shall be used for this reservation.

In order to provide benefit to students belonging to EWS category in admission to higher educational Institutions, a constitutional amendment was made in 2019 which enabled the provision of 10 percent reservation for the EWS category. Accordingly, seats in medical / dental colleges were increased over two years in 2019-20 and 2020-21 to accommodate this additional 10 percent EWS reservation so that the total number of seats available for the unreserved category do not reduce.

In the AIQ seats, however, this benefit had not been extended thus far.

Since 2014, after the first Narendra Modi government came to power at the Centre, MBBS seats in the country have increased by 56 percent from 54,348 seats in 2014 to 84,649 seats in 2020. The number of PG seats has increased by 80 percent from 30,191seats in 2014 to 54,275 seats in 2020.

During the same period, 179 new medical colleges have been established and now the country has 558 (government: 289, private: 269) medical colleges.

What is the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act?

Interestingly, the government’s announcement on reserving 27 percent for OBCs, 10 percent for EWS under AIQ scheme in medical education comes at a time when the Constitutional 103rd Amendment Act is under the purview of the Supreme Court.

The Constitutional 103rd Amendment Act got assent from the President of India on 13 January 2018. It was passed in the Lok Sabha by 323 members who were in favour of it and three members who were against it. In Rajya Sabha, 165 members were in favour and seven against. Following are the key highlights of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment:

  • It provides for reservation in the Central government jobs as well as the government education institutions.
  • The amendment applies to citizens who belong to the EWS from the upper castes.
  • The amendment was passed in addition to the already existing reservations.
  • The main objective of the amendment is to include people from economically weaker sections of the society to attend the higher education institutions and jobs in public employment which remain unfulfilled due to their financial incapacity.
  • It aims to make Article 46 compulsory that urges the government to provide protection to all the educational and economic interests of the weaker section of society. Since socially disadvantaged sections have enjoyed the privilege, there was relief provided to economically disadvantaged sections as well.
  • What will the five-judge Constitution Bench look into the 103rd Constitutional Amendment?

    In August last year, the Supreme Court referred to a Constitution Bench of five judges, the challenge mounted against the Constitution (103) Amendment Act, which introduced 10 percent reservation for the EWS.

    The Supreme Court referred a batch of pleas and transfer petitions challenging the Centre’s decision to grant 10 percent reservation in jobs and education to EWS and the Constitution (103 Amendment) Act 2019. A bench of the then chief justice A Bobde, R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai said it was of the view that the questions raised in a batch of pleas and transfer petitions “do constitute substantial questions of law to be considered by a Bench of five Judges”.

    The top court had said, “It is clear from the language of Article 145(3) of the Constitution and Order XXXVIII Rule 1(1) of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013, the matters which involve substantial questions of law as to interpretation of constitutional provisions they are required to be heard a Bench of five Judges”.

    The bench said that whether the impugned Amendment Act violates the basic structure of the Constitution, by applying the tests of ‘width’ and ‘identity’ with reference to equality provisions of the Constitution, is a matter which constitutes a substantial question of law.

    It said that the question such as whether the ceiling of 50 percent for affirmative action can be breached as the Centre claimed that though it is ordinarily a rule same will not prevent to amend the Constitution in view of the existing special circumstances also constitute a substantial question of law to be examined by a bench of five judges.

    The top court said after hearing Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for Centre and the counsel for petitioners on the point of reference, it is in agreement with the petitioners that these matters involve substantial questions of law, as such, they are required to be heard by a Bench of five Judges in view of the provision under Article 145(3) of the Constitution of India and Order XXXVIII of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013.

    Petitioners which include several NGOs, individuals and lawyers have argued that that the impugned amendments violate the basic structure of the Constitution mainly on the ground that the existing provisions empower to provide affirmative action only in favour of socially backward classes.

    They argued that economic criteria alone cannot be the basis to determine backwardness and it is for the first time that by the impugned amendments in the Constitution itself, the new clauses are incorporated enabling the State to provide affirmative action by way of the reservation to the extent of 10 percent in educational institutions and for appointment in services to EWS of society.

    The counsel for petitioners had relied on a nine-judge verdict in the 1992 case of Indra Sawhney and said that the impugned amendments run contrary to the said judgment as it exceeds the ceiling cap of 50 percent.

    Venugopal had opposed the reference to the larger bench and said that the Amendment Act was necessitated to benefit the EWS of the society who are not covered within the existing schemes of reservation, which as per statistics, constitute a considerably large segment of the Indian population.

    The apex court had earlier refused to stay the Centre’s decision to grant 10 percent quota in jobs and admissions to EWS citizens.

    Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha cleared the bill on 8 and 9 January 2019 respectively, and it has been signed by President Ram Nath Kovind. The quota will be over and above the existing 50 percent reservation to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.

    With inputs from PTI

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