The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, assured that, the petitions challenging the validity of Centre's Rs. 8 lakhs annual income upper limit criteria for seeking Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) reservation in the All India Quota for NEET admissions, would be taken up on priority, either next week or the week thereafter.
As Justice D.Y. Chandrachud had to join Justice M.R. Shah for a Special Bench hearing, the 3-Judge Bench led by Justice Chandrachud had to rise by 1PM. Right before the Bench comprising Justices Chandrachud, A.S. Bopanna and J.B. Pardiwala was to rise for the day, Senior Advocate, Mr. Arvind Datar mentioned the matter. Apprising the 3-Judge Bench that the counselling for NEET-PG 2022 is to commence from 1st September, 2022, he requested the matter to be listed at the earliest. He informed the Bench that as per his instructions, the Pandey Committee recommendation to not include agricultural land has also not been implemented. Mr. Datar urged for early hearing for interim directions in this regard.
It is pertinent to note that by an order dated 07.01.2022, the Apex Court had allowed the commencement of counselling process for NEET-PG and NEET-UG for the academic year 2021-2022 on the basis of the existing 27% quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC) and 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in the All India Quota. The Court upheld the constitutionality of 27% OBC reservation. On the issue of determining the criteria for EWS (Rupees 8 lakhs gross annual income cut-off), the Court thought it fit to allow the existing criteria to operate for the said admission year so that the admission process is not stalled any further.
In its order dated 07.01.2022, the Apex Court had categorically listed the issue with respect to the validity of criteria determined by the Pandey Committee for identifying EWS for subsequent years in March, 2022.
The Committee, which was formulated by the Center for revisiting the criteria of the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) reservation (Pandey Committee), had suggested the retention of the annual income criteria of Rupees 8 lakhs but recommended the exclusion of family who has agricultural land of 5 acres and above, irrespective of income. The Committee has further recommended removing the criteria with regard to residential assets. However, it had recommended that these revisions be applied from the next academic year.
[Case Title: Neil Aurelio Nunes & Ors v Union of India and Ors WP(C) No. 961/2021]