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The Supreme Court Tuesday gave its nod to the Maharashtra government’s ‘best five’ formula for admission to Class 11 and ordered its extension to students of the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) board.

While staying the operation of the verdict of the Bombay High Court, an apex court bench of Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice Cyriac Joseph in its interim order said that the ICSE board students would have the option of using the ‘best five’ out of six subjects for calculating their scores at the time of applying for admission to Class 11 (junior college).

Of the six subjects, four compulsory subjects will be from group I and two will be from any of the 10 subjects in group II.

The court was hearing the state government’s plea challenging a Bombay High Court verdict which said that the ‘best five’ formula for Secondary School Certificate (SSC) Board students discriminated against students from other boards.

The Maharashtra government came up with the ‘best five’ formula in February.

A government resolution said marks obtained in any five of the six subjects in Class 10 exams by an SSC student would be taken into account for admission to Class 11. An SSC pass-out, therefore, will be able to choose the five subjects in which he/she has excelled.

While giving relief to thousans of ICSE students, the court said for calculating percentage on the basis of ‘best five’ 13 subjects falling under Group III of the ICSE examination will not be included.

However, if any ICSE student wants to take advantage of subject under Group III then he will have to forego the option of ‘best five’ and his percentage will be calculated on the basis of the seven papers he had appeared in during the secondary school examination.

Issuing notice in the cross petitions, the court gave four weeks time to the government and the petitioners to file replies and listing of the case for October.

At the outset, the court said that the matter pertained to nearly 16 lakh students appeared in the examination conducted by Maharashtra State Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (SHSE) board and also those who appeared under the ICSE.

Senior counsel Harish Salve appearing for Maharashtra board made an offer giving the option of the ‘best five” to the students of ICSE board but for admission to medical discipline in Class 11 they will have to include mathematics subject while calculating the ‘best five’ score.

This was opposed by senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi and Soli Sorabjee who appeared for the ICSE board and students. They said that any extension of the ‘best five’ has got to be unconditional and without riders.

However, by the time the hearing concluded the Maharashtra government further relaxed its terms for extending the formula to ICSE board students, saying that it would not insist on inclusion of mathematics for calculating the best five score for admission in medical stream.

This prompted Justice Sirpurkar asking Salve why the state did not accept similar suggestions made by the Bombay High Court earlier.

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