NEW DELHI, MAY 22: The Supreme Court has issued notices to the Centre, the State of Kerala and the Medical Council of India (MCI), on May 21, 2018, seeking their responses to a Writ Petition filed by a private medical college of Kerala in connection with the nativity rules governing admissions to MBBS, BDS and other undergraduate allied medical courses in the State.
The petition, filed by Kunhitharuvai Memorial Charitable Trust (KMCT) Medical College, an unaided private self-financing medical college in Kozhikode, seeks to quash the Kerala Government’s nativity rules which restrict even the private medical colleges of the state from admitting candidates who are not of Kerala domicile or have not completed their schooling from Kerala.
A vacation Bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and Navin Sinha asked the concerned bodies to submit their responses before the next hearing scheduled for May 28, 2018.
What the petitioners argue
The petition filed by KMCT Medical College asserts that every private self-financing institution in the state must have the right to choose its intake from an All India pool of candidates since they function on the basis of funds generated from student fees alone and do not rely on any state funding. “Since the Kerala government doesn’t support the private self-financing institutions in any manner whatsoever, this ‘nationalising’ of seats is an ‘unreasonable state action’,” points the petition as per media reports. It further adds, “The reach of private unaided self-financing institutions, some of which additionally enjoy the status of minority institution under Article 30 (1) of the constitution suffers on account of being unable to take the option of centralised counselling and thereby admit students from All-India pool, on account of nativity criterion imposed by state.”
Senior advocate Jayant Bhushan and advocate Y Shiva Santosh, appearing on the behalf of the petitioners, argued, “The nativity criterion is violative of the Constitution’s Article 14 as it is manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable, irrational, discriminatory and classifies unreasonably.”
What the nativity rules say
On the basis of nativity, Kerala divides candidates in three categories, namely Keralite, Non-Keralite I and Non-Keralite II. The same is explained under Clause 6.1 of the Kerala Engineering Architecture Medical Entrance (KEAM) Prospectus and is as given below -
Keralite category refers to candidates who are of Kerala origin.
Non-Keralite I category includes candidates who are not of Kerala origin but have completed Class 12 from Kerala and have one of the parents belonging to Government of India or Defence Service posted in Kerala, OR, have completed Class 12 from Kerala and have one of the parents serving/having served the Government of Kerala for a minimum of two years, OR, have been a resident of Kerala for at least 5 years including the Class 12 study period, OR, have completed Classes 8 to 12 in Kerala.
Non-Keralite II category involves candidates who are neither of Kerala origin nor fulfil the nativity criteria of Non-Keralite I category. Candidates who come under this category are not permitted to apply for medical and allied courses, including MBBS or postgraduate medical courses in the state of Kerala, in either the private or government medical colleges. In this regard, the KEAM Prospectus, released annually by the Commissionerate of Entrance Examinations (CEE), the state counselling conducting authority of Kerala, reads, “Non-Keralite Category II candidates are not eligible for admission to Medical and Allied Courses including MBBS/BDS.”
Current seat distribution in Kerala
The petition argues that numerous seats in the undergraduate medical courses offered by the private colleges are not filled due to this rule. According to the existing counselling practice under NEET UG, the examination governing admissions to MBBS, BDS, Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) and other allied medical courses at undergraduate level, 15% of the seats in Government medical colleges and 50% of the seats, which include 15% NRI seats, in private medical colleges should be made available for admissions to candidates from across India. In almost all private colleges across states, candidates from across India are allowed to join the 50% management quota seats.
In Kerala, as per the NEET 2017 data, a total of 1044 MBBS seats are available for admissions in nine Government medical colleges and a total of 2050 seats are available in 18 self-financing medical colleges.
However, out of the 18 private medical colleges in Kerala, only two which come under the category of ‘Government Controlled Self-financing Medical College’ and one which comes under the category of ‘Private Self-Financing Medical College’, are allowed to admit candidates from outside Kerala as per the general NEET counselling rules. Even in these, only 35% of the seats are available for the Management Quota in which non-Keralites can join, while the 15% NRI seats also require candidates to be of Kerala origin or adhering to the rules of the ‘Non-Keralite I’ category. The remaining 50% seats can only be filled by candidates from Kerala or those fulfilling the requirements of the ‘Non-Keralite I’ category.
The KMCT case
In the remaining 15 private medical colleges, which include four ‘Private Self Financing Medical Colleges under Kerala Christian Professional College Management Federation’ and 11 ‘Other Private Self Financing Medical Colleges’, 85% of the seats are termed as Management Quota seats but only a specified number in some of these is reserved for candidates from outside Kerala, that too for the minority community which the college represents. It should be noted that 12 of the 18 private colleges are minority colleges, with six belonging to Christian minorities and six to Muslim minorities.
KMCT Medical College, which is a Muslim minority college, is classified under the ‘Other Private Self Financing Medical Colleges’ category, as per which it can only allow 25 seats out of the total 150 seats for candidates from outside Kerala, that too for only those belonging to the Muslim minority community. The remaining 125 seats have to be filled by candidates belonging to Kerala or satisfying the ‘Non-Keralite I’ category clause.
In a similar case from 2017 that was heard in the Supreme Court and involved the state of Kerala versus aggrieved candidates from outside the state seeking admissions to Kerala’s minority private medical colleges, the petitioners had demanded that Clause 6.1 of the KEAM prospectus be removed since it did not permit ‘NK-II Category’ candidates, that is anyone who were not of Kerala origin or had studied outside the state, from seeking admissions to the state’s private medical colleges. The petitioners had invoked Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution in that instance, claiming that the clause was discriminatory in nature, particularly since the petitioners were from the minority community and sought admissions to minority colleges. As per the petitioners, minority colleges should be allowed to hold their own counselling and not be under the ambit of the CEE. The Supreme Court had however ruled in favour of the State in that instance, since the petitioners had failed to provide the Prospectus document in their original filing.
If the nativity rules are struck down as a result of the final SC verdict in this petition, all private medical colleges in Kerala will be able to take admissions in their MBBS courses solely on the basis of candidates’ performance in NEET 2018, irrespective of the nativity of the candidate for a significant proportion of their seats.