The Supreme Court will deliver its order on the EWS quota or OBC quota for NEET PG Counselling 2021 today, after the Centre sought an urgent hearing in the matter.
A two-judge bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and A S Bopanna concluded hearing on the matter on Thursday and reserved its verdict.
Earlier, the apex court had agreed to hear the plea following the Centre’s urgent request to hear the matter in view of the protests by resident doctors against delay in the counselling round for NEET PG.
So what is this case about?
Large-scale protests have been held by resident doctors of various hospitals under the banner of the Federation of Resident Doctors' Association (FORDA) in Delhi and other parts of the country over a delay in the NEET-PG counselling, which has been deferred due to the Centre deciding to revisit the criteria for the determination of the EWS quota.
A total of over 89,000 doctors had qualified in the NEET-PG examination conducted in September out of over 160,000 who appeared.
The matter pending before the court has been filed by resident doctors who have challenged a 29 July 2021 notification by the Centre introducing 27 percent OBC quota and 10 percent EWS quota in the NEET all-India quota seats. The petitions questioned the basis for applying the EWS quota, and said that such reservation would exceed the 50 percent benchmark set by the top court in its earlier decisions since there is also a 22.5 percent reservation for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes.
The Centre had formed a review committee comprising Ajay Bhushan Pandey, former finance secretary; Professor VK Malhotra, member secretary, ICSSR; and Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Advisor to the Government of India. The committee had submitted its report on 31 December, supporting the Rs 8 lakh income threshold as a “reasonable” basis to determine EWS.
“The current gross annual family income limit for EWS of Rs 8 lakh or less may be retained. In other words, only those families whose annual income is up to Rs 8 lakh would be eligible to get the benefit of EWS reservation,” the report said.
In its affidavit filed in the apex court, the Centre has said it has decided to accept the recommendations of a three-member panel to retain the current gross annual family income limit for defining Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) at Rs 8 lakh or less.
The government has also told the court that according to the panel, family income is a "feasible criterion" for defining EWS, and in the current situation, a threshold of Rs 8 lakh of annual family income seems reasonable for determining EWS.
In its affidavit filed in a matter related to admissions for NEET-PG, the Centre has said the panel has recommended that "only those families whose annual income is up to Rs 8 lakh would be eligible to get the benefit of the EWS reservation".
According to The Hindu, the Supreme Court’s query was significant as the One Hundred and Third Constitutional Amendment of 2019, which introduced the 10percent EWS quota, is itself under challenge before a larger bench. The amendment is under question for making economic criteria as the sole ground for grant of reservation benefits.
With inputs from agencies