The Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday that the counselling process of NEET-PG will not commence till the top court decides the challenge to 27% reservation for OBC and 10 per cent for EWS category in PG All India Quota seats (MBBS/BDS and MD/MS/MDS) from the current academic session.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathna recorded the assurance given by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) K M Nataraj, appearing for the Centre, and observed that students will be in serious problem if the counselling process goes ahead as scheduled.
The assurance by Nataraj was given after senior advocate Arvind Dattar, appearing for some NEET candidates, mentioned that as per the schedule announced by the Director General of Health Services, the counselling process for the NEET-PG is to commence from October 25.
He said that by the time the court decides the pending batch of petitions, challenging the July 29 notification, introducing the reservation from academic year, the entire process of admission will be over and serious prejudice would be caused to the students.
Nataraj said the communication which counsel for petitioner is referring to was sent only to the medical colleges for verification of seats and one more clarificatory notification has been issued on Monday.
“The counselling process will not begin till the court decides the pending batch of petitions,” the ASG submitted.
The bench said that it is taking the word on the record.
“We will take your word on record that the counselling process will not start till we decide the batch of petitions one way or the other. You know, students will be in a serious problem, if the process continues,” the bench said.
Nataraj agreed with the observation of the court and said that if there is any problem at all in the future, the petitioner’s counsel can contact him directly.
On October 21, the top court had asked the Centre whether it would like to revisit the limit of rupees eight lakh annual income, fixed for determining the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) category for reservation in NEET admissions for medical courses.
The top court had clarified that it is not embarking into the policy domain but is only trying to ascertain whether constitutional principles have adhered or not.
It had asked the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) to file their affidavits in a week’s time and had formulated questions to be answered by the Centre.
The top court had said, “Tell us if you want to revisit the criteria or not. If you want us to discharge our duties, then we are ready to do so. We are formulating questions which you need to answer them”.
It had added, “We may stay the government notification fixing rupees eight lakh criteria for determining the EWS and you can keep filing the affidavits”.
The top court was hearing a batch of pleas challenging the Centre and Medical Counselling Committee (MCC) July 29 notice providing 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Class (OBC) and 10 per cent for EWS category in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) admissions for medical courses.
It had asked searching questions from Centre, and asked whether any exercise was undertaken before fixing a limit of Rs 8 lakh annual income for determining the EWS category.
It had said the court is not going to tell the government as to what should be the limit whether it should be rupees four lakh or rupees six lakh because it is for the executive to decide but all it wants to know is on what basis Rs. 8 lakh criteria was fixed.
“For determining creamy layer in Other Backward Classes (OBC) category the limit was fixed as Rs 8 lakh annual income and they were considered progressed class among OBCs and they were excluded from reservation benefits. Here, for the EWS category, the limit is the same Rs 8 lakh annual income but it was for inclusion in the reservation benefits,” the top court had said.
On October 7, the top court had posed searching questions to the Centre on its decision to fix a limit of rupees eight lakh annual income for determining the EWS category for reservation in NEET admissions.
The Centre had then said fixing a limit of Rs eight lakh annual income for the EWS category is a matter of policy based on the National Cost of Living Index.
On September 17, the top court has agreed to hear a batch of pleas of students against the July 29 notice providing 27 per cent reservation for OBC and 10 per cent for EWS category in 15 per cent UG and 50 per cent PG All India Quota seats (MBBS/BDS and MD/MS/MDS) with effect from the current academic session 2021-22.
(With PTI Inputs)