Polity and Governance Supreme Court upholds validity of OBC quota in NEET Admissions

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    In News

    • The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of quota for Other Backward Classes candidates in National Eligibility cum Entrance Test’s (NEET) All India Quota seats for undergraduate and postgraduate medical and dental courses.

    About

    • The order pertained to a petition challenging reservation for OBC and EWS: introduced by the central government in the All-India Quota (AIQ) seats in state government medical institutions.
    • Power of the government to provide reservations under Article 15 (4) and (5) of the Constitution: is not an “exception” to Article 15 (1), which enshrines the mandate that “the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them”.
    • Substantive equality: The court held that the power of the government to craft reservation for the OBC amplified the principle of “substantive equality” manifested through Article 15 (1).
    • The Parliament had backed the cause by enacting the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act 2006: to enable 15% reservation for Scheduled Castes, 7.5% for the Scheduled Tribes, and 27% for the OBC category.
      • The Constitution Bench in Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India had also upheld the constitutional validity of 27% reservation for the OBC category provided under the 2006 Act.

    Arguments in Favour

    • Reservations ensure that the opportunities are distributed: in such a way that backward classes are equally able to benefit from such opportunities which typically evade them because of structural barriers.
    • The privileges that accrue to forward classes are not limited: to having access to quality schooling and access to tutorials and coaching centres to prepare for a competitive examination but also includes their social networks and cultural capital that they inherit from their family.
    • The cultural capital ensures that a child from the forward classes is trained unconsciously by the familial environment: to take up higher education or high posts commensurate with their family ‘s standing.
      • This works to the disadvantage of individuals from social backward classes who are first-generation learners and come from communities whose traditional occupations.
    • Helped many if not everyone: Although Reservation schemes do undermine the quality of education but still Affirmative Action has helped many if not everyone from under-privileged and/or under-represented communities to grow and occupy top positions in the world’s leading industries.
    • Social justice: Although Reservation schemes do undermine the quality, they are needed to provide social justice to the most marginalized and underprivileged which is their human right.

    Counter- Arguments

    • An open competitive exam only ensures formal equality and does not end widespread ingrained inequalities: in the availability of and access to educational facilities to certain classes of people, including the Other Backward Classes (OBC).
    • Reservations are the biggest enemy of meritocracy: By offering reservation through relaxed entry criteria, we are fuelling inflation of moderate credentials as opposed to the promotion of merit-based education system, which is the foundation of many progressive countries.
    • Allocating quotas is a form of discrimination: which is contrary to the right to equality.
    • The policy of reservation has never been subject to a widespread social or political audit: Before extending reservation to more groups, the entire policy needs to be properly examined, and its ben­efits over a span of nearly 60 years have to be gauged.
    • Poor people from “forward castes”: do not have any social or economic advantage over rich people from backward castes.
    • There is fear that reservation once introduced will never be withdrawn: even if there is a proof for upliftment of backward classes, due to political issues.

    All India Quota (AIQ)

    • The AIQ scheme was introduced in 1986 to provide domicile free admission to students from across the country.
    • Until 2007, there was no reservation in the AIQ.
    • The rationale behind the AIQ scheme was that selection of candidates for admission based on the all-India open examination would further merit since it would permit the selection of the best minds in the country.

    Source: TH