The apex court held it was the Centre’s prerogative to provide reservation in All India Quota (AIQ) seats. Granting reservation in the AIQ seats was a policy decision of the government, though subject to the contours of judicial review. similar to every reservation policy; .
Justice Chandrachud said the 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”.
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.
“Though the Act of 2006 would not be applicable to the seats earmarked for AIQ in State-run institutions since it would not fall within the definition of a Central educational institution under the Act, the Union, in view of Article 15(5), has the power to provide reservations for OBCs in the AIQ seats. It is not tenable for the States to provide reservation in the AIQ seats since these seats have been ‘surrendered‘ to the Centre,” Justice Chandrachud noted.
The judgment was based on petitions filed by doctors in August 2021 against a July 29, 2021, notification issued by the Directorate General of Health Services of the Ministry of Health implementing 27% and 10% reservation for OBC and Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), respectively, while filling up 15% undergraduate and 50% postgraduate AIQ seats under NEET.