The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will pass orders on whether to allow deemed universities and private colleges to fill up their vacant seats in PG medical and dental courses by extending the schedule of counselling.
The top court said that the question is not whether it has power to do it or not but whether it should allow the deemed universities and colleges to fill up their vacant seats by making an exception to the set schedule of admissions.
Deemed universities and colleges claimed that they have around 1,000 seats vacant in the PG medical courses and if stray vacancy counselling round is extended then such seats could be filled.
A vacation bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant, after hearing the arguments, reserved its verdict on a plea by the Education Promotion Society of India, a registered group of over 1,300 educational institutions of the country seeking to extend the counselling to facilitate admission on vacant seats.
Senior advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for the Education Promotion Society of India said the court has granted exceptions to the set schedule of admissions in the past also and counselling was allowed even after the schedule got over.
He said the country was facing shortage of doctors and filling up the seats could help in controlling the situation.
The bench asked Singh to apprise it as how and by what mechanism the seats are filled up in these deemed universities and colleges.
Singh replied that after a student qualifies NEET examination, on the basis of percentile the college and courses rank sheet is prepared and seat is allocated in a particular college after counselling.
To this, the bench observed that prima facie it is of the view that there should be certain threshold marks or cut off for the admissions as the doctors deal with a life of an individual.
Additional Solicitor General Vikramjeet Banerjee, appearing for the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) opposed the contention that time should be given for filling up the vacant seats.
"Earlier, exceptions granted by the court cannot be treated as rule or precedent. Counselling of the PG medical courses has been completed," he said.
Banerjee said that according to the orders and schedule fixed by the court, the DGHS is conducting counselling for allotment of PG seats to the eligible and qualified candidates in deemed universities across the country based on the NEET (PG) examination.
He said that in as far as 50 per cent All India quota for 2019-20 is concerned, all the seats were allotted during the second round of counselling and the vacant seats, if any, have been reverted back to the respective states/colleges as per approved schedule.
Banerjee said stray vacancy counselling round for the deemed university and colleges was also completed on May 31 and further extending the counselling would set a bad precedent for the future and dilute the objective of having a cut-off date.
The bench, after hearing the arguments, reserved its verdict.
On June 17, the apex court had asked DGHS to make its stand clear on extending the date of counselling for admissions on vacant seats at these deemed universities and colleges.
The Centre had earlier informed the top court that it could not find any amicable solution to the problem as directed by it.
The top court had on June 12 asked the Centre to try to find out an amicable solution to the problem and said, "If need be, counselling may have to be extended by a short period of a week or so."
The plea filed by the society said, "The medical colleges/deemed universities are neither praying for enhancement or increase in number of seats nor for lowering of any parameters in order to accommodate additional students".
"The only prayer is for extension of time for stray vacancy round so that the meritorious students who are already NEET qualified and are already available in the wait list provided by the DGHS, are given another opportunity to join a PG course," it said.
The petitioner society said that the situation can be rectified, if one last chance for counselling for stray vacancy round was granted as was done in the case of Maharashtra after the top court scrapped the ten per cent economically weaker sections quota.
The petition further said there will be benefits of extension of stray vacancy round to medical colleges in order to fill vacant seats for the current academic year.
The last date of counselling for PG medical courses was on May 31.
The society said that they were given five days, May 27 to 31, to complete the PG admissions in stray vacancy round, which was actually insufficient.