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Neil Aurelio Nunes and Ors. v UOI and Ors.
CITATION(2022) 4 SCC 1
DATE OF JUDGMENT20th January 2022
COURTSupreme Court of India
PETITIONERNeil Aurelio and others 
RESPONDENTUnion of India and others 
BENCHDr D. Y. Chandrachud and A. S. Bopanna, JJ.


Neil Aurelio Nunes (OBC Reservation) v. Union of India, (2022) 4 SCC 1, stands as a landmark case addressing the intricacies of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) reservation policy within the Indian legal framework. Neil Aurelio Nunes, a member of the OBC category, emerged as the petitioner, bringing forth a legal challenge against the Union of India. The judgment, delivered on 20th January 2022, holds significance in its potential influence on the application and interpretation of OBC reservations across various spheres, such as education, employment, and beyond.


  1. In 1986, the Supreme Court created the All India Quota (AIQ) – a step towards a fair and merit-based system for medical college admissions. This initiative reserved a portion of seats in government colleges across India, open to students from any state, eliminating domicile bias.
  2. However, some states maintained state-specific quotas, favouring residents within their borders. Dr. Pradeep Jain’s case in 1986 challenged this practice, ultimately setting a cap on such quotas. The remaining seats formed the AIQ, ensuring merit reigned supreme.
  3. Then came the question of broader reservations for communities facing historical disadvantages. In 2003, the court maintained the AIQ’s independence. However, the Abhay Nath v. University of Delhi case in 2006 acknowledged the need for inclusivity, carving out 15% of seats reserved for SCs, 7.5% of seats for STs and 27% of seats for OBCs in central educational institutions. However, reservation for OBCs was not extended to state contributed seats for AIQ in state-run institutions.
  4. Meanwhile, states like Tamil Nadu implemented OBC reservations for their medical seats, but these advantages didn’t translate to the AIQ. This sparked dissatisfaction among OBC communities, demanding equal access to the national pool of opportunity.
  5. Fast forward to July 2021, and the National Testing Agency made a significant announcement. They introduced 27% OBC and 10% Economically Weaker Section (EWS) reservations within the AIQ, alongside existing SC/ST quotas. While this move championed inclusivity, it also ignited concerns about potential shifts in the merit-based landscape of medical admissions.
  6. The current writ case challenges the AIQ seat reservation for OBC and EWS in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET).


  1. Whether reservations allowed for OBCs and EWS in the AIQ?  
  2. Whether the reservations are constitutionally valid?
  3. Whether the notification for OBC reservations was given after the procedure has started?
  4. Whether is it within the executive’s authority to reserve seats in the AIQ—a Supreme Court-created category of seats?


  1. Learned counsel for the petitioner has argued that there must be no reservation for the OBC community in the AIQ seats. He argued that in the case Pradeep Jain v. Union of India, the Supreme Court was concerned about the reservation in PG seats and stated that “Once a person is qualified as a doctor, he cannot be treated as belonging to a backward class anymore. Therefore, admission in PG seats must be purely based on merit, without any reservation.”
  2. He also argued that at the level of PG and Super Speciality, physicians must have a high level of expertise and an in-depth understanding of specific specialised fields. Not everyone can develop this skill. At this point, Reservations would be counterproductive to the interests of the country. Since there are few opportunities for this kind of training, only the most meritorious individuals should be able to access it.
  3. He further contended that this court gave birth to the AIQ Scheme in the case of Pradeep Jain v. Union of India and then the court developed it in the Dinesh Kumar v. Motilal Nehru Medical College cases in 1985 and 1986. Therefore, the reservation policy for AIQ seats can only be changed by this court. The Union Government should have applied to this court, stating its intention to reserve seats for OBC and EWS groups in the AIQ. The court has the authority to grant or withhold authorization.
  4. He argued that even if reservations for OBC and EWS in AIQ seats are constitutionally valid, they won’t be implemented for the 2021–2022 academic year. Given that the deadline for exam registration closed even before the notification about OBC reservations was passed. It is also a well-known principle that “Rules of the game cannot be changed after the game has begun.”


  1. The Solicitor General argued for the Union of India that the 27% reservation for OBC is constitutionally valid. He said, “The rules were not made after the process had begun”. Since the reservation notice was issued well in advance of the examination (45 days) and before the counselling process started.
  2. 2. He further argued that the Hon’ble Supreme Court created the AIQ programme to give students domicile-free reservations. In 2007 the court gave orders to allow reservations of 15% to SCs and 7.5% to STs. So, there is no limiting factor for reservations except for Domicile reservations.
  3. Further he argued that the court held that there would be no domicile reservations in AIQ seats in Pradeep Jain‘s case. The was no mention of limiting any other kinds of reservations. The court even clarified in later judgements too (Saurabh Chaudari v. Union of India, Gulshan Prakash v. State of Haryana) that the limitation is only for domicile.


The idea that meritocracy and discrimination cannot coexist is untrue. Due to historical discrimination, the Constituent Assembly felt that a framework was necessary for granting those communities the opportunity to become administrators and access to resources.

The Drafting Committee made it clear that the purpose of draft Article 10 (now Article 16(4)) was to ensure that the impoverished classes were appropriately represented, hence increasing the effectiveness of State Services. If social justice is not taken into consideration, the promise of equality of opportunity will solely serve the interests of the wealthy. 

Open competition cannot judge an applicant’s merit because of the years of prejudice that have prohibited them from exercising their fundamental rights to a moderate extent. The court decided that no one should be denied equal rights just because they don’t meet institutionally-established, arbitrary criteria. A summary of the general principle of equality can be found in Articles 14, 15(1), and 16(1). Article 15(4) (the reserve) and Article 16(4) further the goal of social fairness by reiterating this broad concept.

Accommodations made for members of lower socioeconomic groups or any special arrangements to address structural imbalances in society cannot be excused from the requirement of formal equality. Merit therefore required a redefinition. Value-based admissions predominate in higher education institutions. But this merit also considers one’s social station and background. 

The bench held that OBC reservation in AIQ seats is constitutionally valid as AIQ is a government policy decision subject to judicial review, and the Supreme Court’s permission was not required. The bench also observed that “High scores in examinations are not a proxy for merit. Merit should be socially contextualised and reconceptualised as an instrument that advances social goods like equality that we as a society value. In such a context, reservation is not at odds with merit but furthers its distributive consequences.”


According to clause 11 of the information bulletin, the counselling authority will notify NEET-PG reservations before the start of the counselling process. As a result, the counselling authority only provides this information prior to the start of the counselling session. The claim that the “rules of the game were set when registration for the examination closed” is consequently baseless.

The Union of India applied to this Court in Abhay Nath, referring to the government’s policy choice to reserve seats in the AIQ for members of the SC and ST categories. Up until that point, there was uncertainty regarding the possibility of providing reservations in the AIQ seats due to the confusion surrounding the seat matrix’s demarcation. The Union Government didn’t need to obtain this Court’s approval before granting reservations for AIQ seats. Thus, the government’s policy choice to provide reservations for the AIQ seats will be governed by the same judicial review guidelines that apply to all other reservation policies.


In the case of Neil Aurelio Nunes and Ors. v. UOI and Ors., the Supreme Court of India, led by Dr. D. Y. Chandrachud and A. S. Bopanna, delivered a landmark judgment on January 20, 2022. The case centred on the constitutional validity of reservations for Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Economically Weaker Section (EWS) candidates in the All India Quota (AIQ) for postgraduate and super-specialty medical courses through the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET).

Neil Aurelio Nunes, the petitioner, contested the reservations, arguing for the sanctity of merit-based admissions. The petitioners emphasized that any alteration to the AIQ scheme should be sought through due process and that introducing reservations after the academic year had commenced contradicted established principles. The Union of India defended the 27% OBC reservation within the AIQ. Asserting it was a valid policy decision, and the AIQ, initially created for domicile-free reservations, did not have limitations beyond domicile.

The Supreme Court’s judgment upheld the constitutionality of OBC reservations in AIQ seats and redefined the understanding of merit. The Court emphasized that merit should be socially contextualized, challenging the notion that high scores alone equate to merit. This decision represents a significant shift in the understanding of affirmative action, ensuring a nuanced balance between meritocratic principles and the imperative of social justice in higher medical education. 


  1. Neil Aurelio Nunes (OBC Reservation) v. Union of India, (2022) 4 SCC 1 
  2. https://www.livelaw.in/neil-aurelio-nunes-v-uoi-neet-obc-quota-407973.pdf
  3. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/105658896/#:~:text=By%20its%20order%20dated%207,and%20PART%20B%20PG%20seats.

This Article is written by Chinthaginjala Karthik student of Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam (DSNLU); Intern at Legal Vidhiya.

Disclaimer: The materials provided herein are intended solely for informational purposes. Accessing or using the site or the materials does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The information presented on this site is not to be construed as legal or professional advice, and it should not be relied upon for such purposes or used as a substitute for advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Additionally, the viewpoint presented by the author is of a personal nature.


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