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Sahana S. Rao Aithal Indian National, Power of Attorney, Suresh S. Rao Aithal v/s Union of India Through The Secretary, Ministry Of Ayurveda, Yoga And Naturopathy, Union Siddha And Homoeopathy [AYUSH] & Others

    Writ Petition No. 641 of 2022 (F)

    Decided On, 26 April 2022

    At, In the High Court of Bombay at Goa

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE M.S. SONAK & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE R.N. LADDHA

    For the Petitioner: S.S. Kantak, Senior Advocate with Shivraj Gaonkar, Saicha Desai, Advocates. For the Respondents: R1, Somnath Karpe, Central Government Standing Counsel with Abhishek Sawant, S. Vaigankar, R2, Pravin Faldessai, R3, Prachi Sawant, Advocates, R4, D. Pangam, Advocate General with Deep Shirodkar, Additional Government Advocate.



Judgment Text

M.S. Sonak, J.

1. Heard learned Counsel for the parties.

2. Rule. The rule is made returnable forthwith at the request of and with the consent of the learned Counsel for the parties.

3. The Petitioner challenges the respondents' action to withdraw the admission granted to her for postgraduate (M.D.) in Rasa Shastra & Bhaishajya Kalpana at ITRA, Jamnagar (respondent no.2) against the 'Central Pool Quota' for a deficient States like Goa.

4. The seats for postgraduate courses in Ayurveda are broadly divided into two categories relevant to the issue raised in this petition. The first is the general category seats to be filled in through All India Counselling conducted by Ayush Admission Central Counseling Committee [AACCC]. The second category is the seats reserved for States like Goa that do not have any facilities to undertake P.G. courses [Reserved Seats] to be filled in by nomination by the Central Government based on the recommendation of the deficient States. Unfortunately, there are presently only three institutes [donor institutes] that provide such reserved seats in the entire country. One of them is ITRA, Jamnagar [respondent no. 2].

5. The guidelines governing the Counseling and filling in the general category seats are contained in an AACCC brochure. The comprehensive guidelines to fill in the reserved category seats are in Central Government communication dated 02.06.2020. The two sets of guidelines are different and distinct. There is no bar to candidates simultaneously applying to the two categories based on the marks secured at the All India entrance test [AIAPGET].

6. The Petitioner applied under both categories. Through Counseling, she was admitted to a P.G. course in Bharati Vidyapeeth [respondent no. 3] on 22.01.2022. The State of Goa had already recommended Petitioner for admission against reserved seats based on her merit position to the Central Government. However, only on 16.03.2022 did ITRA Jamnagar offer the Petitioner the reserved seat, which the Petitioner promptly accepted. On 18.03.2022, this offer was sought to be withdrawn on the plea that Petitioner is on the ineligibility list dated 16.03.2022 published by AACCC, having already secured admission against a general category seat through Counseling.

7. The Petitioner contends that her admission against a general category seat only bars her from participating in further Counseling for admissions to the other general category seats. But, such admission is no barrier to admission to reserved category seats governed by a completely different set of comprehensive guidelines. Therefore, the withdrawal of admission is contrary to law and arbitrary.

8. On 22.03.2022, after hearing the learned Counsel for the parties, including the learned Advocate General for the State of Goa, who supported the Petitioner's stand, we made an interim order directing the respondent no.2 to fill up the seat against which the Petitioner had been provisionally admitted.

9. Affidavit in reply has been filed on behalf of respondents nos.1 & 3. Despite the opportunity, no affidavit was filed on behalf of respondent no.2. However, Mr. Faldessai, who appeared for respondent no.2, adopted the submissions of Mr. Karpe, Central Government Standing Counsel, who appeared on behalf of respondent no.1. Ms. Prachi Sawant appeared for respondent no.3 in the matter.

10. The Ministry of Ayush, cognizant that certain States/Union Territories lack facilities for postgraduate courses in Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani & Homeopathy (ASU&H) medicines, issued Comprehensive Revised Guidelines for Central Government Nomination (C.G.N.) to M.D. Courses for the session 2020-21 on 02.06.2020. These guidelines formulate a policy for admission of students from such States (deficient States) in certain reputed institutions, including ITRA, Jamnagar (respondent no.2).

11. In terms of this Scheme, the respective deficient State Governments have to recommend the candidates for nomination by the Central Government into its 'Central Pool.' After that, depending upon whether such candidate is a 'sponsored candidate' as defined in clause 2(d) or 'private candidate' as defined in clause 2(e), the Central Pool quota seats are allotted in the presently three identified institutes ('Donor Institutes' as defined in clause 2(c)). Thus, the Comprehensive Revised Guidelines dated 02.06.2020 prescribe an entirely different and distinct scheme under which the admissions to these Central Pool quota seats or reserved seats favoring the deficient States are to be made and implemented.

12. The above is more evident by reference to certain portions of the Comprehensive Revised Guidelines dated 02.06.2020.

13. The object of the Scheme is introduced in paragraph 1, which reads as follows:

"As you are aware that to meet the resurgence of interest in Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani & Homoeopathy (ASU&H) medicines in India & abroad and also in pursuance of the 55th Report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Demand for Grants, few seats in ASU&H PG/MD courses are reserved under 'Central Pool' in few donor institutes of the country for the students/candidates of the States/U.T.s, where the colleges of the respective system/speciality is not available, for studying Post Graduate (PG) Courses. The same is in implementation through existing PG/MD Scheme Guidelines (A.Y. 2019-20) bearing F. No. R.14016/2/2019-EP-II dated 24.4.2019 for Central Government Nomination (C.G.N.)."

14. The definitions under this Scheme are contained in paragraph 2, and the same read as follows :

"a) Deficient State/U.T. — means in which State/U.T. no Government-run college of the respective system/specialty of MD/PG courses for study is existed.

b) Eligible Candidates — means candidates belonging to deficient States/U.T.s, where the colleges of the respective system/specialty is not available for studying MD/PG Courses, are only eligible for nomination/admission under the 'Central Pool" reserved seats in donor institutes of this Scheme.

c) Donor Institutes - means in which institutes seats under 'Central Pool' are reserved for Central Govt. Nomination (C.G.N.) of candidates.

d) Sponsored candidates — means nominated candidates. who are employees of any deficient State/UT Govt.-run medical institutions, for Central Govt. Nomination (C.G.N.) whose emoluments would be borne during study period of the course by the concerned sponsoring deficient State/U.T. Govt., as per their existing rules in this regard and not by any donor institute or by this nominating Ministry.

e) Private candidates – means aspirants/interested candidates who are not in service of any Govt.-run medical institution of the deficient States/U.T.s and nominated by such States/U.T.s for admission under 'Central Pool' reserved seats in donor institutes.

2.1 Eligible sponsored candidates i.e. Teachers/Medical Officers (Doctors), Researchers (Research Officers) are to be recommended/nominated by the deficient State/U.T. Governments for nomination as Central Government Nominees (C.G.N.) for admission in M.D/PG Courses against the seats earmarked under 'Central Pool' by the donor institutes/colleges as Government of India's nominees."

15. Since, in this matter, we are not concerned with eligible sponsored candidates, but with eligible private candidates, reference can be made to clauses 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 4.5 & 5, which read as follows:-

"2.2 Eligible Private candidates are to be nominated as Central Govt. Nominees by the deficient States/U.T.s for admission in MD/PG courses (i.e Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) against seats earmarked under 'Central Pool' by the donor institutes/colleges under this Scheme.

2.3. While making recommendation/nomination against Government of India's Nominees; preference will be given to regular teaching staff with 3 years' regular service of any Government-run medical institution. If no eligible teaching staff with 3 years' regular service of State Government-run medical institution is available for nomination, Medical Officers(M.Os) and Research Officers (R.Os) working on regular basis and have rendered 3 years' regular service in the Government will be nominated as Government of India nominees. However, only one eligible 'Research Officer (R.O)' would be nominated by this Ministry in each stream per year (academic session) for admission in MD/PG Course under this Scheme (i.e Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) against reserved seats under Central Pool. If neither a Teacher nor a Medical Officer or a Research Officer working in the Government is available for nomination; the vacant seats under 'Central pool' in donor institutions will be filled up by the eligible private candidates recommended/nominated by deficient States/U.T.s, in case, no Central Government Nominee (i.e. either/Teacher or Medical Officer or Research Officer) or Private candidate recommended/nominated by deficient States/U.T.s is still available, the vacant seat under 'Central Pool' will be filled up by open category candidates by the donor institute according to the merit of the All India Ayush Post Graduate Entrance Test (AIAPGET) conducted by NTA.

2.4 The Government Teachers/Medical Officers (Doctors)/Research Officers shall not be subjected to the above entrance test (AIAPGET). However, the private candidates recommended/nominated by the deficient States/U.T.s shall be admitted on the basis of marks obtained by them in the above entrance test (AIAPGET). They will have to apply to the concerned donor institute, in pursuance to the notification/prospectus published by the respective donor institute in each academic session, through their respective deficient State/U.T. Govt. by recommending/nominating their candidatures for admission.

4.5 Applications of sponsored/in-service Government Teachers/Medical Officers (Doctors)/ Research Officers shall only be scrutinized by this Ministry keeping in view their seniority, subject of teaching etc. and also date of birth (D.O.B), if necessary, while nominating them as Government of India's Nominees (C.G.N.s). The Central Govt. reserved seats of MD/PG courses under 'Central Pool' in the donor institutions should be allotted to the Central Government Nominees (C.G.N.s) by the respective donor institute strictly on the basis of the seniority and choice of institutes/subject opted by the Central Govt. Nominees (C.G.N.) and also on availability of seat in the institution. Other private candidates, nominated by the deficient States/U.T.s, shall have to appear in the entrance test (AIAPGET) for this purpose. They will be admitted on the basis of marks obtained by them in the above entrance test (AIAPGET) subject to obtaining qualifying marks in the test as specified in P.G. Regulations of the concerned System. For admission of such Private candidates or open Category candidates against Central Pool seat or seat fall vacant due to non-acceptance of nomination by any Central Govt. Nominee (C.G.N.), the donor institutes shall give admission to such candidates without referring to this Ministry seeking further direction/approval.

5. The donor institute shall also prepare a separate merit list for admission of private candidates nominated and forwarded by the deficient States/U.T.s. They shall, however, be admitted against the vacant seats available. If any, after admitting the Government Teachers/Medical Officers (Doctors/Research Officers nominated by this Ministry. Teaching institutions (donor institutions), which have earmarked seats for utilization by this Ministry, will send Prospectus/Information Bulletin to this Ministry immediately on its publication and also provide to the private candidates from deficient states seeking admission under 'Central Pool' seats to M.D/P.G. Courses. The teaching institutions will fill up the seats earmarked for Central Government Nominee (C.G.N.) only after getting the direction from this Ministry. The donor institutes/colleges shall account for these seats provided under Central Pool for the purpose of reservation for SC/ST/OBC etc."

16. Clause 7 provides that the instructions and guidelines shall remain valid for subsequent academic years unless modified or amended.

17. The admissions to the general category seats for P.G. courses in several institutes are undertaken and carried out by the Ayush Admissions Central Counselling Committee (AACCC) under the Ministry of Ayush. However, AACCC has no role in admissions to the reserved category seats that the Central Government directly controls through nominations based on deficient state governments' recommendations.

18. The admission policy concerning the general category seats is to be found in the brochure that comprises, among other things, Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.'s).

19. Chapter 1 of the AACCC brochure is essential to decide the issue raised in this petition and, therefore, the same is transcribed below in its entirety for convenience of reference:-

“CHAPTER-1

INTRODUCTION

Ayush Admissions Central Counseling Committee (AACCC) of Ministry of Ayush, Govt, of India, New Delhi is conducting Online Counseling for the allotment of Post Graduate (MD/MS) seats to and AIAPGET qualified eligible candidates under All India Quota in participating Govt./Govt. Aided Ayurveda/ Homoeopathy/Unani/Siddha Colleges (15%), Deemed Universities (100%), Central Universities/National Institutes and Institutional seats of B.H.U. (50%) since 2019. The allotment of seat to the candidates is made based on the AIAPGET, 2021. Examination conducted by National Testing Agency (NTA).

The AIQ-PG seats under AACCC-PG Counseling area as follows*:-

i. 15% All India Quota PG (MD/MS) Seats of Govt./Govt. Aided Institute of all States/U.T.'s (except Jammu & Kashmir)

ii. 100% P.G. (A.I.Q. and Institutional Quota) Seats of B.H.U., Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

iii. 100% P.G. (Ayurveda) seats of ITRA, Jamnagar, Gujarat (except nominated seats)

iv. 50% P.G. (Ayurveda) seats of N.I.A., Jaipur, Rajasthan (except nominated seats)

v. 50% P.G. (Ayurveda) seats of AIIA, New Delhi,

vi. 100% P.G. (Homoeopathy) seats of N.I.H., Kolkata, West Bengal (except nominated seats)

vii. 100% P.G. (Homoeopathy) seats of NHRIMH, Kottayam, Kerala

viii. 100% P.G. (Unani) seats of NIUM, Bangalore, Karnataka (except nominated seats)

ix. 100% P.G. (Unani) seats of NRIUMSD, Hyderabad, Telangana (except nominated seats)

x. 100% P.G. (Unani) seats of RRIUM, Srinagar, Kashmir (except nominated seats)

xi. 50% P.G. (Unani) seats of A.M.U., Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh.

xii. 50% P.G. (Siddha) seats of N.I.S., Chennai, and Tamil Nadu.

xiii. 100% P.G. seats of all Deemed Universities.

The role of AACCC, M/o Ayush is limited to allotment of seats to the participating candidates, as per their merit and choice, which starts only after receiving the list/data/Information of qualified candidates from National Testing Agency."

20. The brochure refers to the AACCC-PG Online Counselling Scheme of All India Quota Govt./Govt. Aided/Deemed Universities/Central Universities/National Institutes and Internal Seats of B.H.U. & Delhi University for the Academic Years 2021-22. This is followed by "DISCLAIMER." After that, clauses (a) to (s) refer to and answer the F.A.Q.'s. Clause (s) clarifies that the F.A.Q.'s are only for guidance. It further explains that F.A.Q.'s are not valid for legal purposes.

21. Clause (s) reads as follows:

"(s) Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.'s) are only for the guidance purpose. Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.'s) are not valid for legal purpose. For any clarification in the F.A.Q.'s, candidates are advised to clarify it through AACCC-PG Counselling helpline 011-29870011."

22. Since, on behalf of respondent no.1, maximum emphasis was laid on clauses (a),(b) & (h) of the F.A.Q.'s, the same are transcribed below for the convenience of reference.

"a) All Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.'s) in the Scheme of AACCC-PG counseling are mandatory in nature and not optional. Candidates are advised to go through these important questions related to the Scheme of Counseling before registering on the AACCC website.

b) It is assumed that every participating candidate in AACCC-PG Counseling has read, agreed and accepted the Scheme and the terms and conditions of the AACCC-PG counseling, 2021.

h) If a candidate joins the allotted seat in the 2 nd Round and thereafter wants to exit from the Institute, he/she need to relieve/resign from the respective Institute 3 days prior to the commencement of Registration for 3rd/Mop-up Round of AACCC-PG Counseling with forfeiture of security money, to avoid disqualifying from further Counseling. In case, a candidate fails to do so, he/she shall be ineligible for further counseling (Central/State/U.T./Nominated)."

23. Mr. Karpe learned Standing Counsel for Central Government also referred to questions 26 & 27 of the brochure and the answers to the same and, therefore, for the reason of completeness, even they are transcribed below:-

"Q. No.26. Is it necessary to join the allotted ASU&H College to get a chance to participate in the 2nd Round?

Ans. No, candidates need not report/join the allotted college in the 1st Round, since there is free exit. However, if he/she wants to hold the allotted seat in the 1st Round, he/she need to join the college physically and give up-gradation willingness for 2nd Round at the time of admission.

Q. No. 27. What is the time period for free exit for admitted candidates of the 1st Round?

Ans: A candidate joined in the 1st Round allotted seat but has not been Upgraded in Round-2 may resign his allotted seat in 1st Round within five days of Round-2 Result announcement, failing which he/she will be considered as joined candidates for Round -2 and rules of Round -2 will apply accordingly."

24. In this case, the Petitioner, who is admittedly a private candidate, in terms of the Comprehensive Revised Guidelines dated 02.06.2020, just like several or rather most of the students would naturally do, also applied for admission to the general category seats. Admittedly, there is no bar to candidates seeking admission to the general category seats and, simultaneously, if they are eligible to seek admission against the reserved seats for deficient States. But, again, this is natural and something any candidate desirous of undertaking the postgraduate course would generally do.

25. The Petitioner, therefore, appeared for and cleared the All India Ayush Post Graduate Entrance Test (AIA-PGET) for the academic session 2021-22. At the same time, since Goa is admittedly a deficient State, she applied for admission to the reserved seats by her application dated 27.10.2021. This application was entirely consistent with the Comprehensive Revised Guidelines dated 02.06.2020. These Guidelines prescribed that the inter se merit between such applicants (private candidates) has to be determined based on the marks obtained/their merit position at the AIA-PGET.

26. Accordingly, based on the marks obtained by the Petitioner, the State Government, on 17.11.2021, recommended the Petitioner to the Central Government after sponsorship as a Central Pool candidate that could be considered for admission against the reserved seats for deficient states.

27. Since the admissions to the reserved seats were not finalized until 22.01.2022, the Petitioner was offered and took admission at the Bharati Vidyapeeth (respondent no.3) institute against the general category seats after going through Counseling in the First Round.

28. On 16.03.2022, however, at 5.05 p.m., the Petitioner received an email communication from ITRA, Jamnagar (respondent no.2), offering her admission to Rasa's postgraduate course Shastra & Bhaishajya Kalpana for the academic session 2021-22. The email required the Petitioner to confirm whether she was interested in this admission by a reply email immediately. The Petitioner was also directed to remain physically present at the Institute on 22.03.2021 with all documents.

29. The contents of the communication dated 16.03.2022 are transcribed below for the convenience of reference:-

"In sequence of Counseling for the admission of PG Seats of ITRA Jamnagar for Private candidates (sponsored by deficient States/U.T.s) under Central Pool. Your name is listed in (List of Eligible Private Candidate (Sponsored by Deficient States/U.T.s) under 'Central Pool' for Admission 2021-2022), as per the telephonic Counseling you opted and agreed for the available subject i.e. Rasa Shastra & Bhaishajya Kalpana. Confirmed the same by reply email also immediately.

Admission will be finalised only after physical verification of all necessary documents listed in Ans. of F.A.Q.'s serial no.21 of guidelines – AACCC – 2021 along with nomination/sponsored letter as Private Nominee under deficient State concerned and surrendered/relieving letter previously admitted Institute (if any).

You have to physically present at Institute on or before 22.03.2022 with above all documents."

30. Less than an hour after receiving the above email communication at 6.02 p.m., the Petitioner accepted her admission. The response email dated 16.03.2022 addressed at 6.02 p.m. is a part of the record on page 32 of the paper book. Any of the respondents has disputed neither the contents nor its receipt.

31. The Petitioner has also placed on record the immediate steps taken by her in furtherance of the offer and acceptance of admission to the postgraduate course at ITRA, Jamnagar. All these documents are to be found in the paper book and about which no dispute is raised.

32. To the Petitioner's surprise, however, on 18.03.2022, at about 10.36 a.m., the Petitioner received the following email from ITRA, Jamnagar:-

"Dear Scholar,

With reference to letter from Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India – Ayush Admissions Central Counselling Committee (AACCC) Ref.L- 14030/12/2022-EP-1 dated 16.03.2022. Your name appears in the List of ineligible candidates for "The List of In-eligible candidate's for participation in Post-graduate (P.G.) Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homeopathy (ASU&H) State quota/U.T. quota/Institutional quota/Nominated seat counseling 2021". Hence you are not eligible for the seat under central pool as private nominee candidate (Sponsored by deficient states/U.T.s)

All the previous communication in this regard is to be treated as canceled.

List of ineligible candidates for State_UT Couns. is attached herewith."

33. To the above communication dated 18.03.2022 was attached a notice dated 16.03.2022 that reads as follows:-

"NOTICE

The List of In-eligible candidate's for participation in Post-graduate (P.G.) Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homeopathy (ASU&H) State quota/U.T. quota/Institutional quota/ Nominated seat counseling 2021-Reg.

The List of the In-eligible candidate is as per approved P.G. Counseling Scheme for admission to A.S.U. & H all India quota P.G. seats, candidates admitted in Round 1,2,3 and Stray Vacancy Round of all India quota P.G. counseling and holding their respective all India quota seats are not allowed to vacate their admitted seats. Such candidates are also not allowed to further participate in any other counseling i.e. State quota/U.T. quota/Institutional quota/Nominated seat etc. counseling.

Therefore, all Counseling Authorities are requested to not allow these candidates (System wise list of ineligible candidates attached) to participate in the Counseling, which are being conducted by them for admission to A.S.U. & H P.G. course for the academic year 2021-22."

34. To the above Notice dated 16.03.2022 was attached a list of ineligible candidates for State/U.T. Counselling (Ayurveda). The Petitioner's name appears at serial no.92 in this List.

35. Mr. Karpe learned Standing Counsel for the Central Government pointed out that AACCC published a similar list of ineligibles on 24.02.2022. But, even there, the Petitioner's name appeared at serial no.92 in the List of ineligibles.

36. Mr. Karpe, relying almost entirely on clause (h) of the F.A.Q.'s referred to in paragraph 11 above and these two lists of ineligible candidates for State/U.T. Counselling (Ayurveda) submitted that once the Petitioner secured admission at Bharati Vidyapeeth Institute on 22.02.2022, she rendered herself ineligible for securing admissions not only to any other institutes not only against the general category seats that are governed by the AACCC Counselling but also against the reserved seats for the deficient States. He submits that this is quite clear from the bracketed portion below clause (h) that refers to Central/State/U.T./Nominated (emphasis supplied by Mr. Karpe).

37. Mr. Karpe submits that clause (h) is not restricted only to Counseling and admissions to the general category seats through the AAC CCC but will also extend to filling up the reserved quota seats under the Comprehensive Revised Guidelines dated 02.06.2020. He relies on Arvind Kumar Kankane V/s. State of U.P. & Ors. (AIR 2001 SC 2800), Navroz Mehta V/s. Union of India & Ors. (2020 VAD (Delhi) 329)and Anil Jain & Ors. V/s. The Controller of Examinations, Maharishin Dayanand University & Ors. (1997 (6) SLR 98 (P & H)in support of his contentions.

38. On the other hand, Mr. S.S. Kantak learned Senior Counsel for the Petitioner, and Mr. D. Pangam, learned Advocate General for the State of Goa, submit that the admissions to the reserved seats are entirely independent of the admissions to the general category seats governed by the counseling system undertaken by AACCC. They submit that AACCC Counselling is not even applicable to the nominated seats. This position is made quite clear in the introduction to the AACCC brochure transcribed in paragraph 9 above. They submit that the Ayush Ministry Central Government directly undertakes the admissions to the reserved quota seats in conjunction with the Donor institute like ITRA, Jamnagar. The entire policy and methodology of such admission are comprehensively covered by the guidelines dated 02.06.2020.

39. Mr. Kantak and the Advocate General submitted that the List of ineligible candidates relied upon by Mr. Karpe speaks about ineligibility for State/U.T. Counselling and not about any alleged ineligibility of the nominated candidate seats or the reserved quota seats. They submit that if the interpretation suggested by Mr. Karpe is to be accepted, this will frustrate the reservation policy for the deficient States like Goa. They submit that such an interpretation would deny meritorious students the benefit of reservation mainly because there was a delay on the part of the ministers in forwarding the nominations against reserved seats. Accordingly, they submit that this petition should be allowed by making the rule absolute therein.

40. On due consideration of the rival contentions and the material placed on record before us, we are quite satisfied that the admissions to the general category seats that are governed by a detailed counseling process undertaken by AACCC and the admissions to the reserved category seats in deficient States are filled up by the Central Government by a scheme that is quite distinct and substantially independent.

41. Therefore, in the absence of any clear and definite provision in either the brochure that deals with the Counseling and admission to the general category seats or in the Comprehensive Revised Guidelines dated 02.06.2020 that deal with the reserved quota sets, there is no point in mixing the two processes or giving priority to one of the two processes, when a harmonious construction is easily possible and resorted to by the authorities themselves when they offered admission to the Petitioner to the reserved seat.

42. Nothing in the Comprehensive Revised Guidelines dated 02.06.2020 prohibits a candidate from applying to the general category seats and the reserved category seats. Moreover, there is nothing in the Comprehensive Revised Guidelines dated 02.06.2020 that debars a candidate from obtaining admission to the reserved category seats; no sooner the same is offered to her merely because, in the meantime, such candidate may have secured an admission to the general category seat by way of Counseling by AACCC.

43. This is not a case where the Petitioner delayed intimating the acceptance or intimated the acceptance beyond any time limit that may have been prescribed. This is a case where the Petitioner conveyed acceptance within less than an hour of the offer and even took further steps to secure the admission. The offer of admission was based on the merit position obtained by the Petitioner and not on some arbitrary or offhand basis.

44. The offer of admission and the consequent acceptance by the Petitioner was entirely consistent with the comprehensive revised guidelines dated 02.06.20202. Based on these guidelines, there is no infirmity to show us how such an offer could have been revoked or withdrawn unilaterally.

45. The bracketed portion below clause (h) refers to Central/State/U.T./nominated, But we think that the word "nominated" cannot be a source for such drastic and perhaps even unintended consequences. Mr. Karpe, however, submits that the word "nominated" must be given the meaning that the same also applies to the reserved seats for which nominations have to be made by the Central Government. He submits that otherwise, the word "nominated" will be rendered otiose in clause (h).

46. Now, Clause (h) speaks about ineligibility for "further counseling." In Chapter 1 of the brochure, the counseling process mainly applies to the AIQPG seats under the AACCC-PG counseling. This is specified in Chapter 1 of the brochure to include practically all the general category seats "except nominated seats." Therefore, if we accept Mr. Karpe's contention about the words being rendered otiose, then by the exact argument, the words "except nominated seats" would be rendered equally otiose.

47. Therefore, it is only appropriate that we adopt a harmonious construction so that the proper meaning is assigned to the expressions used in the brochure and the guidelines of 02.06.2020. Such balanced construction was adopted to offer admission to the Petitioner against the reserved seat. But after an erroneous reference to the ineligibility list that did not even apply for admissions to the reserved seats, the admission was sought to be unilaterally revoked.

48. As pointed out earlier, the Scheme, the policy, and the method of admissions for the general category seats and the reserved quota seats are different and distinct. The reserved category seats to be filled in by nominations to be made by the Central Government based on the recommendations of the deficient States are governed entirely by the Comprehensive Revised Guidelines dated 02.06.2020. No provision in these revised guidelines declares or renders ineligible some candidates who may have already secured admission to a general category seat in the counseling process, which applies for admissions to the general category seats.

49. Therefore, the brochure that deals with the counseling process and the admissions to the general category seats expressly exclude the nominated seats. Based on reference to the word "nominated" in clause (h) of the F.A.Q.'s referred above, therefore, we do not think that the entire counseling process or the procedure prescribed therein should also be made applicable to the reserved category seats for which a different and distinct method has been comprehensively provided.

50. The Respondents also did not consider the impact of clauses 2.3 and 4.5 of the Central Government's comprehensive guidelines dated 02.06.2020 that govern the admissions to reserved seats. Clause 2.3 contemplates a preference for eligible sponsored candidates like teachers, medical officers, or researchers. But if they are not available for nomination by the Central Government, the reserved seats must be allotted to private candidates like the Petitioner based, undoubtedly on merit. Only when neither sponsored nor private candidates are available can the resultant vacancies be filled by open category or general category candidates.

51. Similarly, clause 4.5 provides that the donor colleges must give admission to the eligible and nominated private candidates like the Petitioner against the reserved seats even without reference to the Ministry or seeking further approval or direction. The offer of admission to the Petitioner was consistent with these and other clauses of the comprehensive guidelines. Such an offer could not have been withdrawn unilaterally even after the Petitioner accepted the same almost immediately and unconditionally.

52. Mr. Karpe, on behalf of respondent no.1, contended that the offer of admission to the Petitioner by ITRA, Jamnagar, vide communication dated 16.03.2022, was a result of inadvertence. Mr. Faldessai, learned Counsel for ITRA, Jamnagar, without any affidavit on behalf of the Institute, also supported the contention of Mr. Karpe. However, neither of the advocates was able to demonstrate why this was erroneous. Instead, they referred to the List of ineligible candidates dated 24.02.2022 and 16.03.2022 and claimed that the Petitioner was declared ineligible, and this ineligibility applied to reserved seats, as well.

53. The above lists are entitled "lists of ineligible candidates for State/U.T. Counselling (Ayurveda)." There is no reference in the lists about ineligibility for nominated seats or reserved seats. This is because the counseling system governed by the brochure or the F.A.Q.'s was never intended to apply to the filling up of the reserved seats or the nominated seats. Therefore, based on the two lists, the Petitioner who is otherwise eligible and merited enough to secure admission to the reserved seat under the Comprehensive Revised Guidelines dated 02.06.2020 could not have been denied admission. The admission already granted to her could not have been unilaterally revoked by relying upon such lists.

54. Mr. Karpe's contention that the Petitioner should have challenged the ineligibility lists dated 24.02.2022 and 16.03.2022 also does not appeal to us. There is nothing wrong with the two lists so long as they apply for further Counseling for admission to general category seats. However, if based on those lists, the Petitioner's admission to the reserved category seat or the nominated seat is to be withdrawn, then the Petitioner can point out how such a decision is contrary to the law and how based upon these lists, her admission to the reserved category seats could not be withdrawn. This is precisely what the Petitioner has done in the present matter, and the Petitioner cannot fail for want of challenge to the two ineligibility lists in which her name appears. Moreover, the Petitioner had no cause of action to challenge the two ineligibility lists because the Petitioner does not claim the right of further Counseling to the general category seats. Instead, the Petitioner has only pointed out that her admission to a reserved seat could not have been canceled based on these ineligibility lists.

55. In Arvind Kumar Kankane (supra), the facts were not comparable to the facts in the present case. There, the Petitioner insisted upon the right of further Counseling to the general category seats. In that context, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that this would not be permissible. To the same effect are the observations in a Navroz Mehta (supra) and Anil Jain & Ors. (supra). Therefore, the observations in these judgments cannot be read or construed dehors from the factual position in those matters and the present case.

56. Neither Mr. Karpe nor Mr. Faldessai was in a position to site any precedent on the applicability of the counseling rules to reserved seats

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or nominated seats, mainly when the process of filling up general seats was covered by one distinct set of guidelines and the process of filling up of reserved category seats was governed by another set of guidelines. Both sets of guidelines are quite comprehensive and cover the entire gamut. Therefore, both guidelines must be given full play within their respective spheres. If any impact was intended, the same should have been clearly stated in either set of guidelines or both. 57. Moreover, we agree with Mr. Kantak and the learned Advocate General that if the interpretation now suggested by Mr. Karpe is to be accepted, then deficient States like the State of Goa would be the losers. Such an interpretation will also dilute the merit inter se amongst the nominated candidates. Finally, this issue has arisen because admissions were not given against the reserved or nominated seats expeditiously. For this delay, Petitioner is certainly not responsible. The candidates cannot be expected to rely only on the prospect of securing admissions to the reserved seats. Naturally, they will attempt to secure admission even in the general category based on their marks. There is no bar for the candidates applying under both categories simultaneously. 58. Therefore, for all the reasons mentioned above, we are satisfied that the respondents were not justified in withdrawing the admission granted to the Petitioner for the postgraduate course in Rasa Shastra & Bhaishjya Kalpana for the academic session 2021-22. Such withdrawal is based upon misreading or misinterpretation of the F.A.Q.'s or other provisions of the brochure. The ineligibility list dated 16.03.2022 does not apply to the case of the Petitioner when seeking admission to a reserved category seat or a nominated seat. However, it will apply fully if the Petitioner was to seek admission through Counseling through a general category seat which she is not. 59. We, therefore, make the rule absolute in terms of prayer clauses (a),(c) & (d) which read as follows:- "(a) Pass a writ, order or direction to the Respondent No.1 Ministry of AYUSH directing it to issue directions/notices/communication to Respondent No.2 (ITRA, Jamnagar) to the effect that the Petitioner must be admitted to the subject course in accordance with Guidelines dated 02-06-2020 being a private candidate under the Central Pool of reserved candidates for Goa being a deficient state. (c) Declare and hold that the Notice (List of ineligible candidates for participating in Counseling) dated 16-03-2022 issued by the Ayush Admissions Central Counselling Committee (AACCC) is not applicable to the Petitioner being a private candidate from the reserved 'Central Pool' for deficient states like Goa under the Guidelines dated 02-06-2020. (d) Direct the Ministry of Ayush to issue directions/notices/communication to the Bharati Vidyapeeth College (Respondent No.3) to relieve the Petitioner so as to enable the Petitioner to get admitted at ITRA, Jamnagar Institute for the Post Graduate seat for M.D. in Rasa Shastra & Bhaishajya Kalpana." 60. Ms. P. Sawant, learned Counsel for respondent no.3, has already stated that the last date for finalization of admissions is extended to 10.05.2022. Therefore, she submits that we must issue directions concerning the vacancy that will now be caused in the respondent no.3 Institute after the Petitioner is admitted to respondent no.2. In this petition, we do not think we can make any such directions except to observe that even this vacancy will be dealt with according to law. 61. Accordingly, by making the rule absolute in terms of prayer clauses (a), (c) & (d), we dispose of this petition. Therefore, there shall be no orders for costs. 62. The concerned respondents should comply with our directions as expeditiously as possible to complete the admission process within time. Accordingly, we direct that the admission process concerning the Petitioner should be completed in any case by 05.05.2022 latest.
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