Neil Aurelio Nunes and Ors. versus Union of India and Ors.

  • Case Name- Neil Aurelio Nunes and Ors. versus Union of India and Ors.
  • Citation- 2022 SCC Online SC 75
  • Petitioners-Neil Aurelio Nunes and Ors. 
  • Respondents- Union of India and Ors.
  • Judgement Delivered on- 20-01-2022
  • Bench-Hon’ble Justice Dr. Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and Hon’ble Justice A.S Bopanna

The Indian government’s Other Backward Classes (OBC) reservation policy aims at giving historically underprivileged populations, a fair access to job and educational opportunities. OBC reservations, which date back to the Mandal Commission Report of the 1980s, provide representation for groups that are underprivileged in both social and scholastic spheres. This reservation, which was first implemented at the federal level and subsequently embraced by other states, usually allots a specific proportion of seats in government employment and educational establishments to applicants who identify as OBC. States and institutions have different percentages in order to secure the representation and participation of those people in respective fields. By addressing past injustices, encouraging social inclusion, and fostering variety in a range of fields, OBC reservations seek to advance the welfare and development of the country as a whole.

In recent times, the judgement given by the Supreme Court in the case of “Neil Aurelio Nunes Ors. v. Union of India and Ors.”, in the year 2022, has become a landmark judgement on the matters related to the OBC Reservation. The Supreme Court Bench comprising of Hon’ble Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Hon’ble Justice A S Bopanna held that it is an important contribution in restoring the social system and vendor pending of reservation. The judgement holds the validity of reservations for backward classes in all India, court of medical college seats under the national eligibility, entrance test. The Court opined that this is a crucial factor in determining the Constitution’s idea of Equality.

Facts Of the Case

The reservation quotas for Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in the All-India Quota (AIQ) for medical seats are at the heart of this case. 

Beginning with the academic year 2021–2022, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s Directorate General of Health Services announced intentions to adopt a 27% quota for OBC (NCL) and a 10% reserve for EWS in AIQ seats.

A fraction of undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) seats in state-run universities are filled by open competition and merit under the current AIQ plan. Previously, candidates for AIQ seats may only be reserved for members of Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).

OBC reservation was not extended to AIQ seats in state-run institutions, despite the “Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admissions) Act,2006” providing reservation quotas for SC, ST, and OBCs in central educational institutions. But at its state-run hospitals, Tamil Nadu has already instituted a 50% quota for OBCs.

In order to get a mandamus to impose OBC reservation in AIQ, a writ case was filed contesting the absence of OBC reservation in AIQ seats. The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) quota for OBCs and EWS in AIQ seats was also challenged in this plea.

The All-India Quota (AIQ), which is distinguished by the merit-based and domicile-free distribution of seats, has its origins in the historic ruling in “Pradeep Jain v. Union of India”. This decision addressed the reservation policies of a number of State Governments, upholding their right to hold seats for students who are residents of their respective states and mandating that open seats be distributed through AIQ. The judiciary subsequently ordered that 15% of undergraduate and 50% of postgraduate seats in the state institutions are to be set aside for AIQ, with the remaining seats being reserved.
The 93rd Constitutional Amendment, which included Article 15(5), gave governments the power to create special measures, such as Educational Institution Reserves for socially and economically disadvantaged groups, with the goal of uplifting these groups. After the case of “Abhay Nath v. University of Delhi, clarification about reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, and Economically Weaker Sections in AIQ was well established. This framework allocated 15% for SCs and 7.5% for STs.

Although the Central Educational Institutions (Reservations in Admissions) Act of 2006 was passed, it did not address the extension of these reservations to state-contributed AIQ seats in the State-Run Institutions. The Act reserved 15% of seats for SCs, 7.5% for STs, and 27% for OBCs in Central Educational Institutions.

Tamil Nadu was one of the states that most vocally has supported adding OBC reservations to the AIQ, even though other states had state quotas in place for them already. The Madras High Court decided that there were no legal or constitutional obstacles to the expansion of OBC reservations to AIQ seats in Tamil Nadu’s medical institutions after the DMK filed a writ suit bringing the matter to light.

The National Testing Agency published an official notification in July,2021 that suggested reserves of 10% for EWS and 27% for OBCs in AIQ for both undergraduate and graduate medical courses. This announcement had sparked the presented controversy. 

Issues Raised

1. Does the inclusion of the reservation quotas for the OBC community in the All-India Quota (AIQ) for postgraduate NEET examinations undermine meritocracy and pose a threat to the national interest?

2. Is it constitutionally permissible to extend reservation benefits to OBC candidates within the AIQ in medical and dental colleges operated by the State Government?

Arguments Submitted by the Petitioners

  1. Admission to postgraduate courses must only be granted through open and fair competition.
  2. This Court has held in the Pradeep Jain Case’s Judgement and related cases that admission to AIQ seats must be granted only through open competition; and 
  3. As this Court has developed the concept of AIQ seats, any reservation to be introduced in the AIQ seats must only be done so in accordance with this Court’s directive.

Arguments Submitted by the Respondents

  1. On the basis that AIQ is a central initiative and will help many applicants get admission, they contended that the 27% reservation to OBC in AIQ seats is constitutionally lawful.
  2. Making reservations for AIQ seats constitutionally is a matter of state policy and is never deemed to be unlawful. 
  3. Merit is independent of grades only. 

Court’s Observation

The court affirmed the constitutionality of reserving seats for OBC candidates in the AIQ for undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) medical and dental courses, citing the following reasons:

  1. Articles 15(4) and 15(5) are not exceptions to Article 15(1), which establishes the principle of substantive equality, including the acknowledgment of existing inequalities. Therefore, Articles 15(4) and 15(5) merely reiterate a specific aspect of substantive equality outlined in Article 15(1).
  2. The performance in open competitive exams, which simply provide nominal equality of opportunity, cannot be used to narrowly define merit. Competitive examinations assess a candidate’s fundamental current competency in order to distribute educational resources, but they do not accurately represent a candidate’s excellence, talents, and potential, which are additionally impacted by personal qualities, life experiences, and further training. Crucially, open competitive exams fail to take into consideration the social, economic, and cultural advantages that some groups have and which help them perform well on these tests.
  3. Group identity is used by Articles 15(4) and 15(5) to advance substantive equality, which could lead to situations in which some members of a reserved group do not actually feel backward, or in which members of the reserved group share backward traits with members of the group. Individual disparities may result from privilege, good fortune, or other external factors, but this should not override the intention of reservations, which is to alleviate systematic disadvantage experienced by particular groups.

Judgement Delivered

The Constituent Assembly believed that since these populations had previously been denied equal opportunities and access to resources, a mechanism for their advancement into administration was hereby necessary.
Notably, the Drafting Committee noted that the goal of proposing draft Article 10 (now Article 16(4)) was to maximize efficiency in State Services and to promote the underprivileged classes by providing them with sufficient representation in State Services. “Social justice must be read into the promise of equality of opportunity; otherwise, the latter merely advances the interests of the privileged.” Merit cannot be viewed in isolation from the prevailing inequities in society. 

The broad idea of equality is outlined in Articles 14, 15(1), and 16(1). Articles 15(4), or reservation, and 16(4) build on this general principle and promote the cause of It is unjustified to claim that reservation is incompatible with meritocracy. Social justice. Formal equality cannot be waived in favour of special measures intended to address societal structural injustices, such as reserves made for the advancement and benefit of underprivileged groups.
“Therefore, Article 16(4) is a part of Article 16(1) that aims to address the historical disadvantage experienced by certain communities, not an exception.”(Hon. Justice Mr. R Subba Rao reaffirmed this in his dissenting view in “T. Devadasam v. Union of India”.

Achieving the substantive equality that Article 16(4) envisions requires adherence to Article 16(4). The reservation policy aims to remove the systemic obstacles that society’s underprivileged groups must overcome. In its truest sense, substantive equality—a broader interpretation of the equality doctrine—can only be attained through addressing the structural obstacles that some citizen classes face, which are known as the “conditions and circumstances that stand in the way of their equal access to the enjoyment of basic rights or claims.”

The Supreme Court bench, which consists of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Bopanna, upheld the ruling regarding the constitutional validity of OBC candidates’ reservation in AIQ seats for postgraduate and undergraduate medical and dental programs. The court also noted that while everyone has an equal opportunity to take open competitive exams, there would be inequalities in the facilities available that would prevent some classes from competing effectively in such a system.
The panel issued a ruling confirming the constitutionality of giving OBC candidates a 27% share of NEET All India Quota seats in UG and PG medical and dentistry programs.


The Indian Constitution’s ultimate purpose is social fairness. In addition to implementing redistributive equality, it entails improving the underprivileged groups that the affluent classes have denied their basic rights. Since India’s independence, class and caste prejudice have been pervasive, which has resulted in social and eventually educational backwardness. As stipulated in Article 15(4), giving OBCs preference for admission to medical institutions is one approach to achieve social fairness.
In order to achieve the constitutional goal of substantive equality, a balance must be maintained in society by fairly representing everyone while taking into account their social and economic status and circumstances. As a result, reservations are not incompatible with merit and do not compromise on effectiveness.