The Centre on Monday sought an urgent hearing of the pleas related to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) reservation in the All India Quota (AIQ) for the much-delayed National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) counselling process for post graduate admissions.
On January 1, the Centre told the Supreme Court that it had decided to stick with the existing cap of Rs. 8 lakh as annual income for eligibility to the EWS quota.
"There is some urgency in the matter," Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud. For now, the matter is listed for January 6. However, if the top court accepts the Centre's request, it may be heard as early as tomorrow.
The issue is about a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the 27% reservation for OBCs and 10% for the EWS category in the Centre's AIQ in post-graduate medical courses.
The Centre in October 2021 had assured the top court that it would not begin counselling for the medical courses till such time the court decided on the reservation issues. The inordinate delay—NEET counselling was postponed in Jan 2021 due to COVID 19—has triggered resident doctors to go on strike seeking an expedited resolution in the top court. The strike has left hospitals in a lurch due to a shortage of staff.
Will stick to Rs 8 lakh annual income cap for eligibility to EWS quota: Centre to SC
On December 31, 2021 the Centre told the Supreme Court that it has decided to stick to the existing criteria of Rs 8 lakh annual income limit to determine Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) based on the recommendation of an expert committee. The Centre added that it also accepted the committee's suggestions to apply the proposed new criteria prospectively.
"A cut-off lower than Rs 8 lakhs on family income would be unduly restrictive and lead to errors of exclusion of the deserving eligible persons," the expert committee's report (attached with the affidavit) said.
The Committee further found that the existing criteria is in use since 2019 and processes with respect to some appointments/admissions have already taken place or must have been at an irreversible and advanced stage.
The committee—constituted in November 2021—told the Centre that changing the eligibility criteria midway would lead to complications, the affidavit said.
"The existing system which is going on since 2019, if disturbed at the end or fag-end of the process would create more complications than expected both for the beneficiaries as well as for the authorities," the report added.
The Centre's affidavit was filed in response to the top court's concerns over the feasibility of capping Rs. 8 lakh annual income as a cap for eligibility to the EWS quota.