Seats Lying Vacant Because of Non-Availability of Eligible Reserved Candidates Should be Offered to Meritorious Students

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The Tripura High court in recent decision Bikash Sarkar v. State of Tripura decided on 20 th August 2015 while dealing with the issue as to whether in case seats for any particular reserved category (SC/ST) are not filled up in an educational institution, due to non availability of sufficient number of eligible candidates in that particular category, should those seats be filled up by applying the exchange method or should the seats be filled up on the basis of merit, a bench of Deepak Gupta CJ and S. Talapatra J disposed of three writ petitions involving identical question of law via a common judgment and held that the 12 seats which are lying vacant for admission in MBBS course in the Tripura Medical College and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Memorial Teaching Hospital because of non-availability of eligible Scheduled Tribes candidates will have to be filled in strictly on the basis of merit.

The Court observed that Section 5 of the Tripura Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Reservation Act, 1991 was amended in 2005 to bring into its ambit reservation in educational institutions (earlier, reservation only in Services under the State was covered), however, the Section does not in any way envisage any exchange between the seats reserved for SC with seats reversed for ST or vice versa. The Court further observed that Rule 8(8)(a) of the Tripura Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Reservation Rules, 1992 provides for exchange, but the language of the sub-rule 8(a) makes it clear that it is applicable only in filling up posts in Government Service and has nothing to do with the educational institutions. The Court noted that “substantive amendments were made to the Rule in the year 2007, and even thereafter no mention of seats in educational institutions is there in Rule 8(8)(a)” and that “Rule 8(8)(a) cannot be read in isolation, it has to be read conjointly with Rule 8(9) and Rule 13 which talk of maintenance of rosters and carrying forward of posts”.

The Court concluded that when the language of any statutory Act or Rule is clear, then the Court cannot introduce words into that Act or Rule to give it a meaning which is totally different from the meaning envisaged by the rule making authority, and hence the exchange method will not apply where seats in educational institutions have to be filled up, instead the vacant seats will have to be filled on the basis of merit.

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