It has also decided to follow the recommendations of the Ajay Bhushan Pandey committee and stick to the Rs 8 lakh criteria for identifying Economically Weaker Sections for the current admission cycle.
The Supreme Court supported the National Eligibility Combined Entrance Test-Undergraduate and Postgraduate (NEET-PG) admissions for 2021-22 while preserving the quotas of 27 percent for OBCs and 10 percent for economically weaker sections (EWS).
The Bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and A S Bopanna also accepted the recommendations of the Ajay Bhushan Pandey Committee and stuck to the Rs 8 lakh income cutoff for identifying those eligible for the EWS quota for the current admission cycle.
In its judgment, the Bench stated that the validity of the criteria set by the committee would be subject to its final order. It is expected that the matter will be heard in detail in the third week of March.
The petitioners had challenged the July 29 notification of the Medical Counseling Committee (MCC) providing 27 per cent reservation to OBCs and 10 per cent to the EWS category in the NEET-UG and PG (All India Quota).
The SC asked the Centre to explain what exercise it had undertaken to arrive at the Rs 8-lakh limit after hearing the petitions. On November 25, 2021, the Center informed the court that it would revisit the criteria and ask for four weeks’ time to complete the exercise.
After this, it appointed a three-member committee consisting of former Finance Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey, Member Secretary of ICSSR V K Malhotra, and Principal Economic Advisor to the government Sanjeev Sanyal. The committee submitted its report on December 31, 2021, recommending that the Rs 8-lakh limit, which has been in place since 2019, be retained, though some changes be made regarding how the application should be made.
Additionally, it advocated the continuation of the existing system since the admission process was already underway and, if interrupted at the end, would create more complications than expected – both for the beneficiaries and the authorities.
The petitioners said the government had admitted it had not conducted any study before setting the Rs 8 lakh limit for the EWS in 2019.