Seats reserved for SC/ST candidates in educational institutions if remain vacant, should be filled by open category candidates

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Sanjay Karol, Acting CJ and Ajay Mohan Goel, J., decided a writ petition, wherein it was held that vacant reserved seats meant for SC/ST categories in educational institutes which remain unfilled after exhausting the list of available and eligible SC/ST candidates, should be thereafter offered and filled from amongst eligible candidates from open category on the basis of merit.

The petitioner prayed that the respondents may be directed to admit her in the M.Sc. Physics course in one of the government colleges. The petitioner submitted that her name appeared in the waiting list of the candidates eligible to be admitted to the course. The seats allotted for the open category candidates were already filled. However, the seats reserved for SC/ST candidates remained vacant even after inviting applications by such candidates. The petitioner prayed that she may be admitted to the said course on the reserved seat which remained vacant. The question open for consideration was whether in the admission process, in case sufficient number of candidates belonging to SC/ST categories is not available and the seats are lying vacant, whether these seats can be filled up from amongst the candidates of general category, who otherwise are eligible for admission.

The High Court considered the matter and was of the view that in a case of admission to a particular course, in each academic session fresh admissions are made, meaning thereby that left over seats are not “carried forward”. Any seat, which remains vacant, remains unfilled for the entire duration of that particular course. In this background, in a given situation, where seats reserved for SC/ST candidates remain unfilled, it is both in the interest of institution as well as the students that the said seats should not be allowed to go unfilled and they should be filled from amongst open category candidates, in case eligible candidates are available. In case this is done, the same will not at all affect the interest of SC/ST categories, for whom the seats were otherwise reserved, because this exercise shall be undertaken by the institution only if after exhausting the list of eligible SC/ST candidates, yet seats remain vacant. On the other hand, by offering the seats to eligible candidates from open category, this will not only facilitate more candidates to gain education in the course in issue, it will also result in optimum utilization of resources.

Accordingly, the petition was disposed of with the direction to respondents that vacant reserved seats meant for SC/ST categories in educational institutes including schools, colleges and universities, which remain unfilled after exhausting the list of available and eligible SC/ST candidates, should be thereafter offered and filled from amongst eligible candidates from open category on the basis of merit. [Archana Thakur v. State of H.P., CWP No. 1992 of 2017, order dated 12.01.2018]

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