The Supreme Court on Friday said there is urgent need to commence the process of counselling for postgraduate medical courses as it upheld the validity of the OBC and EWS quotas in NEET-PG 2021 and NEET-UG 2021.
A bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and A.S. Bopanna said: “Counselling on the basis of NEET-PG 2021 and NEET- UG 2021 shall be conducted by giving effect to the reservation as provided by the notice dated 29 July 2021, including the 27 per cent reservation for the OBC category and 10 per cent reservation for EWS category in the AIQ seats.”
The top court accepted the recommendation of the Pandey Committee that the criteria which have been stipulated in Office Memorandum (OM) 2019, be used for 2021-2022 in order to ensure that the admission process is not dislocated.
In a 5-page order, the bench added: “The validity of the criteria determined by the Pandey Committee for identification of EWS would prospectively for the future be subject to the final result of the petitions.”
The top court upheld the validity of the OBC reservation in the All India Quota (AIQ) seats in NEET-PG and NEET-UG, however listed the petitions for final hearing on the validity of the EWS criteria, as recommended by the Pandey Committee, in the third week of March. The bench emphasised that the formulation of the reasons in the interim order on the EWS reservation would take some time.
A battery of advocates representing various petitioners, who appeared for postgraduate exam last year, argued that there cannot be any reservation for the OBC and EWS category in the AIQ seats in NEET-PG and that criteria for the determination of the EWS category, notified by OM 2019, was unconstitutional. The Central government, however, submitted that the OBC and EWS reservation, with the old criteria according to OM 2019, be allowed to be implemented for the current admission year of 2021.
The Centre has accepted the report of a three-member panel constituted to revisit the EWS criteria. The panel, in its report, said: “Firstly, the EWS’s criteria relates to the financial year prior to the year of application whereas the income criterion for the creamy layer in OBC category is applicable to gross annual income for three consecutive years.”
The panel added: “Secondly, in case of deciding the OBC creamy layer, income from salaries, agriculture, and traditional artisanal professions are excluded from the consideration whereas the Rs 8 lakh criteria for EWS includes that from all sources, including farming. So, despite being the same cut-off number, their composition is different and hence, the two cannot be equated.”
After hearing the parties in the matter, the top court had reserved its judgment on the petitions challenging the 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) and 10 per cent reservation for EWS in all-India quota seats for postgraduate medical courses.
As many as 15 per cent seats in MBBS and 50 per cent seats in MS and MD courses are filled through all-India Quota from the candidates selected through the NEET.