India top court pronounces reasons for upholding socioeconomic quota in university entrance exams
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India top court pronounces reasons for upholding socioeconomic quota in university entrance exams

The Supreme Court of India Thursday pronounced its reasons in a detailed judgement upholding a 29th July notification by the central government to implement a 27% quota for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and 10% quota for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in the pre-medical exam entrance called National Entrance Eligibility Test (NEET).

The special bench, comprising Justice Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice AS Bopanna, had on 7th January given its direction allowing commencement of the counselling process for undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses, upholding the central government’s decision to implement 27% reservation for OBCs and 10% for EWS.

Justifying the reasons to uphold the central government’s decision, the apex court stated that “merit cannot be reduced to narrow definitions of performance in an open competitive examination”, which according to the court allows for only formal equality of opportunity.

In its judgement, the court said that high scores in examinations are not a proxy for merit and that the notion of merit needs to be socially contextualized and re-conceptualized as a tool to advance “social goods like equality that we as a society value.” It noted that within this context, “reservation is not at odds with merit but furthers its distributive consequences.”

The court further opined that the competitive examinations held are merely a device to assess basic competency and accordingly allocate the educational resources in the country; however, they are “not reflective of excellence, capabilities and potential of an individual which are also shaped by lived experiences, subsequent training and individual character.”

It noted that competitive examinations do not take into account the social, economic and cultural advantages that certain classes have access to and which contributes to their success in these examinations.

Clarifying that the central government was not required to seek the court’s permission before implementing its policy on reservations, the bench noted that just as every reservation policy, this policy decision of the union government was subject to judicial review by the court.