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Open versus reserved category: High Court stays counselling for admissions to PG Medical courses

Srinagar, Apr 13: The J&K High Court has put on hold the counselling for admissions to the post-graduate courses in medical colleges in the state.
Hearing an appeal from the open merit candidates against an order passed in favour of the reserved-category candidates, a division bench of Justices Muhammad Yaqoob Mir and Ali Muhammad Magrey on Thursday directed the Jammu and Kashmir Board of Professional Entrance Examination (BOPEE) to halt the counselling till further directions.
Representative of the open merit candidates, Dr Sheena Shah told The Kashmir Monitor that the reserved-category candidates had objected to the BOPEE implementing an amended rule pertaining to J&K Reservation Act 2004.
“The un-amended rule was more advantageous to the category candidates. For instance, if a category candidate was ranked 100, which is good in the state, he or she was automatically moved to the open merit pool and offered a seat there,” she said.
“If that candidate was offered a seat in, let’s say, MD medicine and he wanted to opt for some other stream, the seat should have ideally gone to the next in the rank—the candidate at 101. But what used to happen was that this candidate (the one at rank 100) would block his seat (MD Medicine) for the next category candidate, even if that next (reserved category) candidate figured at, say, 700th position.”
This way, she said, the reserved-category candidates used to grab “the cream of disciplines”.
The government on January 30 amended Rules 15 (Distribution of seats) and 17 (Allotment of Disciplines) of the Act.
Accordingly, the distribution of seats between open merit and reserved categories was changed from 65:35 to 75:25.
In case of the allotment of seats, as per the amended rule, the disciplines would become available (to the category students) “after allotment of seat to the last open merit candidate as allocable under rules”.
However, the reserved category candidates filed a writ petition against the amended rule, demanding that it should not be applied onto the current admission process.
On March 26, Justice Tashi Rabstan of J&K High Court, Jammu, directed the BOPEE to conduct counselling of all the candidates who competed in the process of National Eligibility Entrance Test PG 2018 in accordance with un-amended Rule 17.
The reserved category candidates, represented by counsels Advocate Sunil Sethi and Advocate Veenu Gupta, had argued that since the process for NEET exams started in 2017, the amended rules should not have been applied to their batch.
Dr Shah, however, said that NEET test has nothing to do with counselling and allotment of seats as its only objective is to decide the eligibility.
“Besides, January 30 amendment of rules came almost a month before BOPEE started registration for the counselling on February 28,” she said.
“Category of seats is fine but you cannot have category for the disciplines and a candidate blocking the seat for another reserved category candidate,” she said.
Advocate Zaffar Shah, the counsel for the open merit candidates, told The Kashmir Monitor that under the un-amended rule merit was compromised.
“Candidates with lower merits would get better disciplines. The change that the government has brought is in the larger public interest as the disciplines will be distributed only and only as per the merit,” he said.