The Supreme Court has struck down the grace marks of up to 30 per cent given to rurally posted government doctors in admissions to postgraduate medical degree courses in Odisha.
Its verdict yesterday set aside an Orissa High Court order that upheld the grace marks — 10 per cent per completed year of rural service up to three years — given in the state, and therefore applies only to Odisha.
But legal experts said it could be cited as a precedent by anyone who challenged a similar grace mark regime — which applies across the country under Medical Council of India (MCI) rules — in MD and MS seats in any other state.
However, Odisha also reserves half the MD and MS seats available in its government medical colleges for these in-service doctors who, if they can’t get a reserved seat, can claim the grace while contending for one of the remaining “open category” seats. The MCI regime does not allow such reservation for PG degree courses.
The top court’s verdict cited this dual advantage given in Odisha to government doctors who are working, or have worked, in rural, tribal or backward areas.
The goal of giving an advantage to in-service doctors who have rendered rural service “is laudable”, the court said. But it has “to come through the proper channel, i.e. the channel (reservation) exclusively earmarked for in-service candidates and not through the channel earmarked for candidates in the open category”.
Odisha had adopted these admission rules from this year. Some open category students had challenged the grace marks (but not the reservation) as arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution that guarantees equality for all. But the high court had dismissed their pleas on April 9.
The top court allowed their appeal and directed the state, MCI and the government medical colleges to rework the merit list within August 11 strictly on the basis of merit.
The bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra said: “In-service candidates are also free to compete through the open category just like any other who fall under that category.”
It noted that those who receive admission to PG medical courses through the open category have anyway to sign a bond pledging to serve in rural or tribal areas after earning their degree.
Both the open and reserved (for in-service doctors) categories include the mandatory reservation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes.