Updated: December 29, 2021 2:13:53 pm
COUNSELLING FOR admissions to National Eligibility cum Entrance Test-Post Graduate medical courses has remained suspended ever since the matter got caught in a legal wrangle in Supreme Court, with a bunch of petitions challenging the July 29 notification of the Medical Counselling Committee providing 27 per cent reservation to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and 10 per cent quota to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in NEET-PG (All India Quota).
The matter was last heard on November 25 when the Centre, responding to questions from the top court, said it will revisit the criteria that fixes a limit of Rs 8 lakh in annual income to determine EWS for the purpose of extending reservation benefits and sought four weeks to complete the exercise.
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Hearing the petitions earlier, a bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud had asked the Centre to explain what exercise it had undertaken to arrive at the Rs 8 lakh annual income criteria to determine EWS eligibility for reservation in medical seats under NEET (AIQ). “You can’t just pull out Rs 8 lakh from anywhere. There must be some data. Sociological, demographic,” the court had said on October 21.
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The bench pointed out that Rs 8 lakh was also the limit fixed for the OBC quota, and said people from that community “suffer from social and educational backwardness” but “under the Constitutional scheme, the EWS are not socially and educationally backward”. Therefore, by having a similar scheme for both, “you are making unequals equals”, it had said.
“We are not entering the area of policy but need the disclosure for adhering to Constitutional principles… These are areas of policy but we will have to interfere,” the bench had said.
The court had also pointed out that the explanation included under Articles 15 and 16 in the 103rd Constitutional amendment, by which EWS quota was introduced, states that the category may be notified by the state from time to time on the basis of family income and other indicators of economic disadvantage. As such, it would be necessary for the Centre to disclose the nature of exercise undertaken in accordance with Article 15(2), the bench said.
On October 25, Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the petitioners, said the dates for counselling had been fixed. The Centre then assured the court that counselling will not take place until the pending petitions on the question were decided. Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj conveyed this to the bench, which said, “Counselling will not start till we decide on the issue. Mr Nataraj, we are taking your word for it.”
On the last date of hearing on November 25, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta conveyed to the bench that counselling will continue to remain on hold during the four weeks time when the revision exercise would be undertaken.
Datar pointed out that admissions for the current academic year had already been delayed and sought to know if the quota implementation could be postponed to the next academic year.
The bench asked Mehta if the government would want to consider the option. “What happens is that we are at the end of November. Suppose you complete it by the end of December and then implementation etc and then the terms would begin only some time in February-March. Two months, the students are losing time. This is something you may want to consider,” Justice Chandrachud said.
Mehta responded that the option will be to go with the present criteria for the current year. “Deferring a constitutional amendment should be the last resort,” he submitted.
Taking note, Justice Chandrachud said: “If they have to do it, let them do it in a proper way. We don’t want to push them in a situation where they do something in an improper way… Four weeks is not unreasonably long. I am only worried that medical admissions and the medical year is being postponed.”
The top court listed the matter for hearing next on January 6 next year.
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