Interrogating the false merit-reservation binary

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Interrogating the false merit-reservation binary

  • The Supreme Court’s recent All India Quota ruling deserves closer attention for a reason other than its impact on post-graduate medical admissions.
  • The ruling has the potential to settle a long, fractious and futile debate in our country: merit versus reservations.

About the Case

  • The case's limited aim is to resolve the difficulties surrounding the implementation of OBC and EWS All India quotas in NEET admissions to medical institutions as quickly as possible.
  • AIQ: Judicially established category in which 15% of undergraduate seats and 50% of postgraduate seats are filled on a domicile-free, all-India basis.
  • Within this AIQ category, Government plans to include OBC reservations by expanding the existing SC & ST reservations. well.
  • The implementation of OBC reservation will damage professional merit causing reverse discrimination against general category candidates.

Fresh ground

  • The Court took this opportunity to directly address the issue of merit versus reservations at some length.
  • Context: Critics of affirmative action have claimed that reservations are a violation of merit.

Crux of the Judgement

  • It starts with the idea of substantive equality, rather than legal equality underpinning our constitutional guarantee of equal opportunity.
  • The Court reminded that the founders' objective was to remove genuine structural hurdles that prohibited equality of opportunity from being realized.
  • The Court emphasized that the reservation provision in Article 16(4) is not an exception an extension of, the equality principle enunciated in Article 16(1).

The Arguments Put forward

  • Reservations are crucial to achieving the aspirational goal of genuine equality of opportunity and status amongst all citizens.
  • Stereotypes and skills: It exposes social prejudices that cover up as concerns about ‘efficiency of administration’ and the anxieties about the dilution of merit.
  • On Examinations and merit: It cites A study highlighting a stark separation between what examinations claim to measure, and what they actually do.

Importance of the Judgement

  • The Claims of reverse discrimination by candidates from the unreserved category would have to be justified under the paradigm of substantive equality.
  • The judgment opens the way for designing examinations that are free of linguistic, class, school boards, and regional bias.