SC: treatment of Meritorious Reserved Candidate seat when he chooses to take benefit of reserved category


The Supreme Court of India comprising a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Mohan M. Shantanagoudar gave an important decision about how the seat vacated by a Meritorious Reserved Candidate be filled up if he decides to take advantage of the Reserved Category seat.

An MRC is a candidate who although belongs to the Reserved Category, but has scored well in the exam, so is treated as a General Category candidate.

In the instant case, the validity of circular no. 226(24) dated 14.11.1995 for the admission process for MBBS/BDS and PG courses of Bihar was challenged whereby a Meritorious Reserved Candidate (MRC) is treated as general merit candidate and is allotted a seat in the general merit category; such MRC may instead choose to take up a seat from amongst the seats earmarked for that particular reserved category to which he belongs to gain admission in the college of his preference; on doing so, the choice of seat in the general category left by the MRC will go to a candidate of the reserved category.

So, in other words, the above circular states that if an MRC wishes to take benefit of the reserved category to get a better seat, the seat that was occupied by him in the General Category would go to the person so displaced from the reserved category list.

The issue before the Court was that if an MRC decides to take benefit of the reserved category seat, then the seat in the general category so vacated by him should go to a general category candidate or to the candidate from the reserved category, as was mentioned in the impugned circular. It was contended by the appellant that if the vacated seat is given to the reserved category seat, then the 50% rule of reservation would be flouted and would thus be illegal.

There were two questions that were to be answered by the Supreme Court, which were explained as follows:

“Let it be assumed that there are 100 seats available through one common entrance examination to PG courses in various medical colleges across the country. Of these, 50 are general category seats and the remaining 50 are reserved category seats. X, a reserved category candidate, is assigned rank number 50 on account of his performance in the entrance examination. Thus he is just above the cut-off for reserved category candidates, and has got an open merit rank. Hence, X is a MRC; however, X being in general category is not willing to accept the seat available for general category at the time of his counselling. He wants admission in another college of his preference which is incidentally reserved for reserved category candidates, and a seat in the same is available in the reserved category. Consequently, X chooses a seat available in the college meant for reserved category candidate based on his merit among the reserved category candidates. As he does so, one seat in the general category list of 50 candidates remains unoccupied. In that context, two questions arise for consideration:

  1. Whether X – MRC can opt for a seat earmarked for reserved category?
  2. If answer is yes; what happens to the 50th seat which was to be allotted to X – MRC (i.e. 50th general merit candidate) had he opted for a seat meant for the reserved category to which he belongs?”

 Upholding the Judgment of the Patna High Court, the Supreme Court stated that the seat that is vacated by the MRC should be filled by the candidate who would get a seat in the reserved category had the MRC not have taken the benefit of the reserved category seat. The relevant paragraph of the judgment is as follows:

 “13. It is clear from Ritesh R. Sah (supra), that in the case of admission to postgraduate medical institutions, a MRC who chooses to avail of the option of admission to a college with seats kept for the reserved category is deemed to have been admitted as an open category candidate. He continues to be open category candidate. There is no migration into the reserved category even if a MRC opts for a seat earmarked for reserved category candidates. The lowest-ranking candidates who qualified in the reserved category, cannot hence have option for colleges/seats in reserved category on account of the MRC’s choice, may be adjusted against the choices of college seats then available in the general category left over by MRC. However such reserved category candidates continue in reserved category, except for such option. Thus, by treating a MRC as a general category candidate, the number of reserved seats remains the same, and reservations do not exceed 50%. This is also consistent with the principles of equity. In view of the above, we could not find any reason to disagree with the conclusions reached by the full Bench of the High Court.

14. In light of the cases discussed hereinabove, both questions are answered as follows:

i) A MRC can opt for a seat earmarked for the reserved category, so as to not disadvantage him against less meritorious reserved category candidates. Such MRC shall be treated as part of the general category only.

ii) Due to the MRC’s choice, one reserved category seat is occupied, and one seat among the choices available to general category candidates remains unoccupied. Consequently, one lesser-ranked reserved category candidate who had choices among the reserved category is affected as he does not get any choice anymore.

To remedy the situation i.e. to provide the affected candidate a remedy, the 50th seat which would have been allotted to X – MRC, had he not opted for a seat meant for the reserved category to which he belongs, shall now be filled up by that candidate in the reserved category list who stands to lose out by the choice of the MRC.

This leaves the percentage of reservation at 50% undisturbed.”

Click here to read the judgment.

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