After a day-long hearing challenging the legitimacy of the EWS quota in postgraduate medical admissions and the Centre’s argument in favor of quotas, the court said on Thursday that there was a situation where counseling had to be started in the national interest.
A bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachur and AS Bopanna said: “We are in a situation where, in the national interest, counseling has to be started.”
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Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Center, argued that all candidates eligible for the EWS quota, according to existing criteria, had received certificates for their registration, adding that seats had been increased in all government colleges to meet the EWS quota.
“So, it will not hurt the prospects of general department students …”, he added.
Mehta further clarified that there is no reservation for super-specialty courses and no judgment remotely suggests that PG courses cannot have reservation. Regarding the EWS quota, he said there was a study, mindfulness and extensive consultation when the government decided to set an income limit of Rs 8 lakh.
He added: “We are not in the habit of finding out who is poor. The term economically weaker section has been used in the constitution. It is a matter of consideration whether economically weaker meritorious students can compete with other students and bear the cost of tuition.”
He clarified that in the present case the income is family income and if 3 members of the family earn Rs 3 lakh per year, their income will be Rs 9 lakh and they will not come under EWS department.
Senior lawyer Arvind Datar, representing some of the petitioners, argued that no proper study has been done to reach the income limit of Rs 8 lakh and pointed out income inequality in different states. He said it was arbitrary to impose a limit of Rs 8 lakh evenly across the country and this quota should be postponed for next year instead of applying this year.
Advocate Archana Pathak Dave, appearing for The Federation of Indian Doctors, said: “Every year approximately 45,000 candidates are admitted as postgraduate doctors through NEET-PG examination. However, in 2021, Due to the delay in conducting the NEET-PG test, access to medical personnel was hampered. ”
In an intervention petition, the Federation of Physicians requested the apex court to allow counseling to begin.
Senior Advocate Shyam Diwan, representing some of the doctors who took the test, argued that postgraduate admissions should be purely merit-based and that reservations must be minimal, citing Supreme Court rulings that no reservations should be made in super-specialty courses.
The Center has accepted the report of a three-member panel formed to review the EWS criteria. The panel, in its report, said: “First, EWS’s criteria relate to the financial year prior to the year of application whereas the income criteria for the creamy layer in the OBC section applies to total annual income for three consecutive years.”
The panel added: “Second, in deciding on the OBC creamy layer, wages, income from agriculture and traditional technical occupations are excluded from consideration whereas the standard of Rs 8 lakh for EWS has been included from all sources including farming. Despite being off-numbers, their structure is different and therefore, the two cannot be equated. ”
After hearing the parties on the matter, the apex court reserved its judgment on the petitions challenging the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs and 10 per cent reservation for EWS in all-India quota seats for postgraduate medical courses.
15 per cent seats in MBBS and 50 per cent seats in MS and MD courses are filled through all-India quota from candidates selected through NEET.
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