Mumbai: The Maharashtra government lacked an ‘objective criteria’ to decide the beneficiaries of its policy to reimburse the fees of medical and dental students who were deemed to have been affected by the introduction of 12% Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) or Maratha quota and 10% Economically Weaker Section (EWS) reservation in 2019, the Bombay High Court (HC) said in a recent judgment.
The verdict was delivered earlier this week following a plea by 26 unreserved (open) category students, who claimed that they were denied the benefits of the policy even though they were also affected by the two quotas. The division bench of justices Nitin Jamdar and Manjusha Deshpande directed the state to determine if the petitioners are eligible for reimbursement within six months.
The 'one-time special-case' measure
The ‘one-time special-case’ measure was brought in September 2019 after SEBC and EWS reservations led to a decline in the number of seats available to open-category students at medical and dental colleges in the academic year 2019-20. The state had decided to pay the difference in tuition fees at government and private colleges to those private college students who would have been allotted government seats had it not been for the two quotas. The government later reimbursed 106 students.
The Supreme Court (SC) has since declared the SEBC or Maratha quota unconstitutional while upholding the EWS reservation.
The petitioners have argued that the number of general-category students who were notionally deprived of entry into government medical and dental colleges is much higher than those who benefited from the policy. They contended that the state didn’t have a clear methodology to arrive at the number of beneficiaries for the scheme – a view endorsed by HC.
Directorate of Medical Education and Research to examine the case
The court, in its order, noted that when the petitioners had raised objections to their names not being included in the list of beneficiaries, the government, instead of looking into individual complaints, replied in the same format without giving any reason for the omission. This approach, according to the court, defeats the purpose of the policy.
The HC has now asked the state Directorate of Medical Education and Research to examine the case of each of these petitioners and pass orders “which would indicate the criteria adopted for coming to the conclusion and upon such criteria whether each of the petitioners is entitled to reimbursement or not”.