Reservation inapplicable to specialty and superspecialty faculty posts in AIIMS

Faculty Association of AIIMS vs. Union of India & Ors.

The question under consideration in the present matter was whether reservation was inapplicable to specialty and superspecialty faculty posts in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).


Faced with the earlier decisions of the Supreme Court in the case of Indra Sawhney Vs. Union of India & Ors. [(1992) Supp.(3) SCC 215]; Jagdish Saran & Ors. Vs. Union of India & Ors. [(1980) 2 SCR 831]; and Dr. Pradeep Jain etc. Vs. Union of India & Ors. etc. [(1984) 3 SCR 942], wherein reservation in admission to specialty and superspecialty courses was disallowed, the Division Bench of the High Court confined itself to the limited issue, namely, whether reservation policy was  inapplicable for making appointments to the entry level faculty post of Assistant Professor and to super specialty posts and also whether the resolutions adopted by AIIMS on 11.1.1983 and 27.5.1994 were liable to be struck down

The Supreme Court observed that the main issue raised regarding reservation at the super-specialty level has already been considered in Indra Sawhney case by a nine-Judge Bench. Having regard to such decision, the Court was not inclined to take any view other than the view expressed by the Nine-Judge Bench on the issue. Apart from the decisions rendered by the Court in Dr. Jagadish Saran’s case and Dr. Pradeep Jain’s case, the issue also fell for consideration in Preeti Srivastava’s case which was also decided by a Bench of Five Judges. While in Dr. Jagadish Saran’s case and in Dr. Pradeep Jain’s case it was categorically held that there could be no compromise with merit at the super specialty stage, the same sentiments were also expressed in Preeti Srivastava’s case as well. In Preeti Srivastava’s case, the Constitution Bench had an occasion to consider Regulation 27 of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh Regulations, 1967, whereby 20% of seats in every course of study in the Institute was to be reserved for candidates belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes or other categories of persons, in accordance with the general rules of the Central Government promulgated from time to time. The Constitution Bench came to the conclusion that Regulation 27 could not have any application at the highest level of super specialty as this would defeat the very object of imparting the best possible training to selected meritorious candidates, who could contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the field of medical research and its applications. The Supreme Court ultimately went on to hold that there could not be any type of relaxation at the super specialty level.

Also in paragraph 836 of the judgment in Indra Sawhney’s case, it was observed that while the relevance and significance of merit at the stage of initial recruitment cannot be ignored, it cannot also be ignored that the same idea of reservation implies selection of a less meritorious person. It was also observed that at the same time such a price would have to be paid if the constitutional promise of social justice was to be redeemed. However, after making such suggestions, a note of caution was introduced in the very next paragraph in the light of Article 15 of the Constitution. A distinction was, however, made with regard to the provisions of Article 16 and it was held that Article 335 would be relevant and it would not be permissible not to prescribe any minimum standard at all. Of course, the said observation was made in the context of admission to medical colleges and reference was also made to the decision in State of M.P. vs. Nivedita Jain [(1981) 4 SCC 296], where admission to medical courses was regulated by an entrance test. It was held that in the matter of appointment of medical officers, the Government or the Public Service Commission would not be entitled to say that there would not be minimum qualifying marks for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes candidates while prescribing a minimum for others. In the very next paragraph, the Nine-Judge Bench while discussing the provisions of Article 335 also observed that there were certain services and posts where either on account of the nature of duties attached to them or the level in the hierarchy at which they stood, merit alone counts. In such situations, it cannot be advised to provide for reservations. In the paragraph following, the position was made even more clear when the Supreme Court observed that they were of the opinion that in certain services in respect of certain posts, application of rule of reservation may not be advisable in regard to various technical posts including posts in super specialty in medicine, engineering and other scientific and technical posts.

The Supreme Court held that the it was bound by the ruling in Indra Sawhney’s case since the very concept of reservation implies mediocrity and the Court will have to take note of the caution indicated in Indra Sawhney’s case. The Supreme Court urged the Central and State Governments to take appropriate steps in accordance with the views expressed in Indra Sawhney’s case and in the present case, as also the other decisions referred to above, keeping in mind the provisions of Article 335 of the Constitution.