New Delhi [India], January 7 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the validity of the Other Backward Class (OBC) reservation in the All-India Quota (AIQ) seats in NEET-PG and NEET-UG.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court also issued various operative directions to commence the process of Counselling for NEET-PG 2021 and NEET- UG 2021.
A Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna said, "The validity of the OBC
reservation in the AIQ seats in NEET-PG and NEET-UG is upheld for reasons to follow."
In the meantime, the apex court observed that there is an urgent need to commence the process of Counselling and henceforth, it had issued various operative directions at this stage and given a green signal to NEET-PG Counselling for 2021-2022 based on existing EWS/OBC reservation criteria.
Among them, one direction is that "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 also accepted the recommendation of the Pandey Committee that the criteria which have been stipulated in 2019 be used for 2021-2022 in order to ensure that the admission process is not dislocated.
Besides this, the top court also directed that the criteria for the determination of the EWS notified by OM 2019 shall be used for identifying the EWS category for candidates who appeared for the NEET-PG 2021 and NEET-UG 2021examinations.
The Court said for the Economically Backward Class (EWS) category, the 10 per cent criteria, which have notified earlier shall continue to operate for this year so that the admissions process shall not be dislocated for the current academic year.
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 said and listed for final hearing on the validity of the EWS criteria as recommended by the Pandey Committee in the third week of March 2022.
The petitions were taken up by the Supreme Court for urgent hearing on 5 January 2022 after a request was made by the Solicitor General. Central Government 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.
Mentioning that the submissions made before this Court over a span of two days necessitate a detailed interim order on the applicability of the EWS criteria as notified by OM 2019 for NEET-PG 2021. However, the Court clarified that the formulation of the reasons in the interim order on the EWS reservation would take some time.
The Central Government had filed an affidavit justifying the EWS criteria on 26 October 2021 stating that the criteria were adopted after due deliberation within the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and all the concerned stakeholders.
On November 25, 2021, this Court was informed by the Solicitor General that the Union Government has taken a considered decision to revisit the criteria for determining the EWS and requested four weeks to complete this exercise, which was acceded to by this Court. The Central Government formed a Committee on 30 November 2021 to review the criteria for identifying EWS. The Committee submitted its report on 31 December 2021. Thereafter, the Union Government filed an affidavit before this Court accepting the recommendations of the Committee including the recommendation that the existing criteria for identifying EWS be retained for the present admission year 2021-2022.
The Court has earlier reserved its order on pleas relating to providing 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Class (OBC) and 10 per cent for Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category in the All-India Quota (AIQ) seats for the admission in the NEET for all medical seats.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Centre has contended that any revised criteria should be made applicable prospectively and the present counselling and admission should be held as per the existing criteria.
The government has also defended the OBC reservation as well as the Rs 8 lakh income criterion for determining EWS.
Senior advocates Arvind Datar and Shyam Divan appeared in the court on behalf of some of the candidates.
On Wednesday, the Centre requested the top court to allow commencement of the counselling for NEET-PG saying doctors concerns for counselling is genuine. Resident doctors have been protesting against the delay in the NEET-PG counselling.
Earlier, the apex court had asked the Centre to put on hold the counselling for NEET-PG until it decides the validity of the Centre's decision to introduce OBC and EWS reservation in All India Quota (AIQ). It had said that NEET-PG counselling will not start without its approval as the court is examining a plea against the Centre's decision for medical admission.
On December 31, the Centre filed an affidavit stating that it has decided to stick to the existing criteria of Rs 8 lakh annual income limit for determination of 10 per cent EWS reservation with respect to the ongoing admissions to the NEET postgraduate courses.
The Centre had informed the apex court that an expert committee constituted by the government to reassess the criteria, suggested that the existing criteria may be continued for ongoing admissions while the revised criteria suggested by the Committee may be adopted from the next admission cycle.
Changing the EWS criteria midway will lead to complications, the Committee had opined while recommending the introduction of revised EWS criteria
from the next academic year.
The affidavit stated, "The Central government has decided to accept the recommendations of the Committee including the recommendation of applying the new criteria prospectively."
The three-member committee was constituted by the Centre after the apex court had expressed serious reservations about whether any study was conducted at all before fixing the Rs 8 lakh limit for determining EWS.
The top court was hearing a batch of pleas challenging the Centre and Medical Counselling Committee (MCC) July 29, 2021 notice providing 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Class (OBC) and 10 per cent for Economic Weaker Sections (EWS) category for the admission in the NEET for all medical seats.
The July 29 notice provide 27 per cent reservation for OBC and 10 per cent for the EWS category in 15 per cent UG and 50 per cent PG All India Quota (AQI) seats (MBBS/BDS and MD/MS/MDS) with effect from the current academic session 2021-22.
On October 21, the Bench had asked the Centre whether it would like to revisit the limit of Rs 8 lakh annual income, fixed for determining the EWS category for reservation in NEET admissions for medical courses.
It had asked the Centre whether any exercise was undertaken before fixing a limit of Rs 8 lakh annual income for determining the EWS category. (ANI)