The Centre on Monday requested the Supreme Court to hear the Economical Weaker Section (EWS) quota in the NEET-AIQ case on Tuesday citing urgency, instead of January 6. A bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said he would consult the Chief Justice N.V. Ramana for an early hearing.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted before the court that there is some urgency and requested for hearing on the matter Tuesday. Senior advocate Arvind Datar also requested the court for an early hearing.
Justice Chandrachud pointed out that the matter was previously heard by a three-judge bench, and the other two judges are sitting on a different bench. "I will have a word with the Chief Justice," said Justice Chandrachud. The top court also asked the Centre to share the copy of the report with petitioners.
The Centre has told the top court that Rs 8 lakh income criterion for determining the EWS is much more stringent than the one for the OBC creamy layer.
The Centre has accepted the report of a three-member panel constituted to revisit the EWS criteria. The panel, in its report, said: "Firstly, the EWS's criteria relates to the financial year prior to the year of application whereas the income criterion for the creamy layer in OBC category is applicable to gross annual income for three consecutive years."
The panel added, "Secondly, in case of deciding the OBC creamy layer, income from salaries, agriculture and traditional artisanal professions are excluded from the consideration whereas the Rs 8 lakh criteria for EWS includes that from all sources, including farming. So, despite being the same cut-off number, their composition is different and hence, the two cannot be equated".
The panel comprised Ajay Bhushan Pandey, former finance secretary; Prof V.K. Malhotra of ICSSR; and Sanjeev Sanyal, principal economic advisor to the government. The panel was set up on November 30.
On November 25, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that it has taken a decision to revisit the criteria of Rs 8 lakh annual income limit for EWS criteria and added that a fresh decision will be taken within a period of 4 weeks.
On October 21, the Supreme Court had questioned the Centre over adopting the criteria of OBC creamy layer of Rs 8 lakh annual income for granting reservations under the economic weaker section (EWS), despite the latter not suffering from social and educational backwardness.
The top court told the Centre's counsel "You just cannot pull out eight lakh from thin air. You are making unequal equal by applying the Rs eight lakh limit".
In an affidavit, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that its decision to fix Rs 8 Lakh income limit for OBC and economically weaker section (EWS) is not arbitrary in the NEET All India Quota, and it was finalised after considering diverse economic factors in different states.
The top court is hearing writ petitions challenging 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) and 10 per cent reservation for EWS in all-India Quota seats for postgraduate medical courses. As many as 15 per cent seats in MBBS and 50 per cent seats in MS and MD courses are filled through All India Quota from the candidates selected through NEET.