Day 5 Oral HearingOBC & EWS Reservation in Postgraduate Medical Admissions (PG NEET)
On January 5th 2022, a two-judge Bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and A.S. Bopanna began the fifth day of hearings in challenges to the Union government’s OBC and EWS reservations in the All India Quota for postgraduate (PG) medical students.
Today’s hearing was urgently requested by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on account of doctors’ protests all over the country. PG admissions have been pending for eight months, first due to COVID-19 and then due to the Union Government’s delays in devising a reasoned income criteria for EWS candidature. Resident doctors in hospitals across India have been protesting the delays because hospitals are short-staffed, forcing the doctors to work extraordinarily long hours.
Today the Bench briefly heard Mr. Mehta’s request, on behalf of the Union Government, to conduct counselling for PG medical degrees immediately. Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for petitioner Neil Aurelio Nunes, also started arguing against the latest justification of the Rs. 8 lakhs income limit provided by the Union’s Expert Committee.
The Bench heard Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, on behalf of petitioner Madhura Kavishwar, as well. Mr. Divan repeated two arguments against OBC reservations in PG medical courses—that admissions to ‘super-specialized’ degrees at a PG level should be based only on merit and that reservations in the All India Quota (AIQ) can only be announced by the SC, because the AIQ was created by the Court. Read a detailed account of his arguments here.
Doctors’ Protests Make Union Government Seek Permission to Start PG Counselling Soon
The Union government, on December 31st 2021, submitted the report of an Expert Committee. The Committee was constituted to respond to Chandrachud J’s questions about the Rs. 8 lakhs income criteria for EWS reservations. The Bench’s most crucial question was whether any exercise had been undertaken to arrive at the criteria.
The Committee recommended that the Rs. 8 Lakhs income limit may be retained. It suggested some changes to the exclusion from EWS based on residential asset ownership, but stated that all changes should be implemented only from the next academic session. The current priority must be to complete PG admissions as soon as possible.
Mr. Mehta stated that the Union government had accepted all of the Committee’s findings. Highlighting the doctors’ protests and the impending third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, he sought permission to begin PG counselling immediately. The Bench clarified that other parties must be given a chance to respond to the Committee’s findings before such permission is granted.
Mr. Mehta restated that the Union Government would not conduct PG admissions without OBC and EWS reservations.
Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for petitioner Neil Aurelio Nunes, argued that the Expert Committee’s report did not clarify the Bench’s questions about the method employed to arrive at the Rs. 8 Lakhs income limit. It only justifies the limit.
The Bench will continue to hear Mr. Datar’s arguments against the income limit tomorrow. The Bench will also hear intervenors who argue for OBC reservations in the PG admissions. Finally, the Bench will hear Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj on behalf of the Union Government.