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‘Making unequals equals’: SC questions Centre over Rs 8 lakh limit for EWS students in NEET

The bench was hearing a batch of pleas challenging the Centre and Medical Counselling Committee notification to provide 27 per cent reservation for OBCs and 10 per cent reservation for the EWS category in the All-India Quota for PG Medical Courses.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
October 22, 2021 8:52:38 am
In the previous hearing on October 7, the bench had asked the Centre to file an affidavit explaining the exercise undertaken to arrive at the Rs 8 lakh limit. (File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to explain how it has fixed an annual income of Rs 8 lakh as the limit for being eligible for reservation under the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) category in the NEET-All India quota.

“You can’t just pull out Rs 8 lakh from anywhere. There must be some data. Sociological, demographic,” Justice D Y Chandrachud, heading a three-judge bench, told Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj.

Pointing out that the Rs 8 lakh limit was also fixed for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) quota, Justice Chandrachud said that people from that community “suffer from social and educational backwardness” but “under the constitutional scheme, EWS are not socially and educationally backward”. Therefore, by having a similar scheme for both, “you are making unequals equals”, he said.

The bench, also comprising Justices Vikram Nath and B V Nagarathna, was hearing a batch of pleas challenging the Centre and Medical Counselling Committee (MCC) notification to provide 27 per cent reservation for OBCs and 10 per cent reservation for the EWS category in the All-India Quota for PG Medical Courses.

In the previous hearing on October 7, the bench had asked the Centre to file an affidavit explaining the exercise undertaken to arrive at the Rs 8 lakh limit. On Thursday, the bench expressed its unhappiness that the government had not filed the reply and said it can consider staying the notification.

“Please show us something. You had two weeks to file an affidavit. We can stay the notification and in the meanwhile you do something,” Justice Chandrachud told ASG Nataraj, who urged the bench not to stay the notification, adding that the draft is ready and that it will be filed in 2-3 days.

The court agreed that it was a matter of policy but said it needed answers to examine its constitutionality. “We make it clear that we are not entering area of policy but need the disclosure for adhering to constitutional principles”, said the bench. “These are areas of policy but we’ll have to interfere. You will have to set your house in order. We will formulate issues.”

The bench pointed out that the explanation included in the 103rd amendment – by which EWS reservation was introduced — under Articles 15 and 16 says that the EWS 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), it said.

The ASG contended that the point was already pending consideration of a 5-judge bench.

The court however told him that he will have to address it on this issue as petitioners are raising this. “We need not go into broader aspects”, the bench observed.

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