(Eds: Updates with CM thanking governor) Chennai, Oct 30 (PTI) Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has given his assent to a bill envisaging 7.5 per cent reservation in undergraduate medical courses to government school students who have cleared the National Eligibility- cum-Entrance Test.
The governor's nod came a day after the AIADMK government took the executive route and issued an order for implementing the quota from the current 2020-21 academic year itself, amid pressure from political parties for its immediate enforcement.
'This is to inform the people of Tamil Nadu that the honourable Governor has given his assent to the bill,' the Raj Bhavan said, in an announcement that came as a surprise since Purohit has only days ago said he would take a decision in 3-4 weeks.
The development saw both the ruling AIADMK and the opposition DMK, which last week staged a protest for immediate assent, seeking to claim credit for the governor's approval.
The TN Admission to Undergraduate Courses in Medicine, Dentistry, Indian Medicine and Homeopathy on preferential basis to the students of the Government Schools Bill 2020 was passed by the assembly last month and sent to the governor.
A release from the Raj Bhavan said Purohit sought legal opinion from the Solicitor General of India on September 26 and it was received on October 29.
'As soon as the opinion was received, honourable Governor has given assent to the bill,' it said.
The statement that the assent came as soon as the opinion was received assumes significance as the issue had taken a political overtone after DMK and others questioned the 'delay' and attacked the state government for 'not exerting' pressure to get it cleared.
As per the bill, 7.5 per cent of seats shall be set apart on a preferential basis to government school students qualifying in NEET, in admissions to MBBS, BDS, BSMS, BAMS, BUMS, and BHMS.
With the state assembly elections due during April-May next year, the NEET related issue had once again brought the two major political parties into a straight fight with the DMK attacking the ruling party and the latter accusing it of shedding crocodile tears.
On Friday, Palaniswami said efforts were afoot to implement the horizontal reservation from the current academic year itself.
He called on Purohit at the Raj Bhavan and thanked him for clearing the bill, which would also help the government overcome a possible legal challenge to the executive route it had taken earlier to implement the quota.
Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar, who accompanied Palaniswami, said the quota was the 'brainchild' of the Chief Minister and the AIADMK government.
'DMK cannot take credit,' he told reporters when asked about Stalin stating that Purohit's approval followed his party's protest.
Stalin was trying to build an illusion and this won't succeed, he said.
In the past about nine year AIADMK rule, as any as 3,050 new MBBS seats were created (in government sector) and during the five year DMK rule (2006-11), only 300 seats were added, Jayakumar said adding the announcement on counsellingfor medical admissions could be expected soon.
Stalin claimed Purohit gave his assent to the quota bill as he was left with no other choice and thanked him for giving his nod.
His party's protest and the hope expressed by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court were behind Purohit's 'change of heart', he added.
In a tweet, Stalin said the approval came after 45 days and when the time for medical counselling was nearing and the Governor had to approve in view of such factors.
Hearing a batch of public interest litigation petitions, a division bench had on Thursday expressed hope that the Governor would take a decision at the earliest.
BJP's Khushbu Sundar said, 'We deliver when we promise.' PMK chief S Ramadoss said Purohit's consent was the victory of the people.
The Raj Bhavan said Purohit sought to know if the proposed quota was in accordance with the Constitution and compatible with Articles 14 (Equality) and 15 (prohibition of discrimination).
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, in his opinion, said 'intelligible differentia' would enable reservation for socially and educationally backward class, an affirmative action.
The bill is in 'consonance with the Constitution of India,' Mehta noted adding it is, however, subject to judicial review and also to other Constitutional principles like those related to the upper limit on reserved seats.
It was passed on September 15 in the assembly and sent to Purohit for his approval.
The government sought expeditious clearance of the bill since the quota should be implemented from the current year and a group of Ministers too had called on Purohit at the Raj Bhavan recently, amid calls by most political parties for implementing it from this year.
BJP Tamil Nadu unit chief L Murugan had said Purohit should clear the bill immediately, noting the 'time taken by him (to examine it) was enough.
The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi had alleged the BJP- led Centre was not interested in providing reservation to students from poor background. PTI VGN SS VS VS