The Supreme Court on Friday, January 7, in an interim order, allowed resumption of medical counselling for NEET-PG and UG admissions for the year 2021-22 and upheld the validity of 27% OBC and 10% EWS quotas. A bench of justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna said that detailed reasons for the interim order will follow and the counselling for the NEET-PG for the academic year 2021-22 will proceed as per the criteria already notified. The bench said that the validity of criteria of Rs 8 lakh annual income for determination of EWS for future years will be subject to final adjudication of the batch of petitions and listed the pleas for final hearing on March 5.
The delay in NEET-PG counselling had led to nationwide protests by resident doctors against the shortage of workforce in hospitals and overburdening of second and third year and resident doctors. In its interim order, the Supreme Court said that the existing criteria for EWS, including an annual come limit of Rs 8 lakh, will be allowed for the 2021-22 counselling to ensure the admission process is not disrupted, according to LiveLaw.
Earlier in July 2021, the Union government had announced 27% reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in the All India Quota scheme (AIQ) for undergraduate and postgraduate students in medical and dental courses, which include MBBS, MD, MS, Diploma, BDS and MDS. This move was challenged in the Supreme Court, leading to the delay in counselling and admissions.
The Supreme Court had earlier questioned the EWS criteria, and asked if it was arbitrary to have the same income limit for both OBC and EWS categories, since OBCs are socially and educationally backward and hence have additional disadvantages compared to the general category. The bench asked the Union government whether any exercise was undertaken before arriving at the criteria for EWS. On November 25, the Union government told the Supreme Court that it had decided to revisit the Rs 8 lakh annual income limit criteria for EWS, and that a committee constituted to determine the criteria for EWS would take four weeks to do so.
At the end of this period, The Union government told the Supreme Court that it had decided to retain the existing criteria based on the recommendation of a three-member panel. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta reportedly told the Supreme Court that the exercise to identify EWS criteria was different from identifying the “poor”, and that EWS must be distinguished from the BPL category.
With PTI inputs