Appearing before a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and Vikram Nath, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said he had been instructed to make a statement before the bench that the government has decided to revisit the criteria, adding that a committee will be set up to examine the issue and sought four weeks time to take a final decision.
An immediate fallout of the decision to re-examine the criteria for determination of EWS is that counselling process for PG admissions would have to be deferred – at least for the month-long period sought by the Centre – till a decision on EWS eligibility is taken. “The Solicitor General states that a period of four weeks would be required for this exercise and pending its conclusion, the date for counseling shall stand postponed in view of the assurance which was tendered at an earlier stage of these proceedings. In view of the above position, the hearing of the proceedings shall be listed on January 6, 2022,” the bench said.
The court was hearing a batch of petitions filed by MBBS doctors challenging Centre’s decision to implement 27% reservation for OBCs and 10% reservation for EWS in admission in PG courses in medical colleges in All India Quota. Though the litigation pertains to admission in PG medical courses, admission process in all government-run institutions and recruitment of government jobs will be affected.
When the matter was being argued in court in October, the apex court expressed displeasure over the Centre not adequately explaining the basis for fixing an income limit of Rs 8 lakh for granting reservation to EWS and directed it to file an affidavit to disclose whether any exercise was done and what was the rationale behind the decision. The court had also questioned the uniform income criteria adopted for the entire country and suggested cost of living or per capita income be considered. The Centre has referred to the Sinho commission recommendations for fixing the income limit and argued that it would not be easy or practicable to consider differentiated criteria given disparities in urban and rural settings.
The court asked how Rs 8 lakh could be fixed for both EWS and OBC categories to be eligible for reservation. It had said there was a social and educational backwardness attached with the OBC category and it was presumed that their backwardness comes to an end with economic advancement.
It had said the EWS category was different with no social and educational backwardness as a constitutional criteria and fixing the same income limit for both categories looked unreasonable.
As the admission process for PG courses will get delayed, senior advocate Arvind Datar contended that the government should implement its decision to enforce OBC and EWS reservation in the all-India quota from the next academic year or the government should take a decision on EWS criteria within two weeks.
Advocate Vivek Singh, appearing for a batch of MBBS doctors, also submitted that the court should in the meantime decide the issue of validity of OBC reservation in AIQ. The bench said four weeks was a reasonable time as the decision should not be taken in a haphazard manner and it must be done scientifically.