NEW DELHI: In a major boost to reservation for backward classes in the medical stream and in a big relief for the government, the Supreme Court on Friday put its stamp of approval on the 27% OBC quota in MBBS and MD courses under all India quota (AIQ) seats and also permitted the Centre to earmark additional 10% seats for economically weaker sections (EWS) for the academic year 2021-22.
The decision would pave the way for resumption of counselling for 15% AIQ seats under NEET-UG (MBBS) and 50% AIQ seats under NEET-PG (MD) for 2021-22, which has been stalled since October.
The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna didn’t pen down the detailed reasons for the judgment due to paucity of time. It accepted the Ajay Bhushan Pandey committee‘s recommendation not to tinker with the existing criteria for identification of EWS candidates, which was notified in January 2019, for the admissions to UG and PG medical courses for 2021-22. The report passing muster with the court was a boost for the Centre as both the OBC quota in AIQ seats and EWS are major policy-political planks that reach out to major social constituencies.
However, the court said the Rs 8 lakh annual income criteria for identifying EWS candidates remained a contentious issue and that it would undertake in the third week of March a detailed scrutiny of the existing as well as the tweaked criteria recommended by the Pandey committee.
DMK, which was in the forefront for 27% OBC reservation in AIQ medical seats, through senior advocate P Wilson, had argued for retaining the OBC quota on the ground that “marks can’t always be an indicator of merit”. Wilson on Friday congratulated the bench for rendering a historic social justice judgment.
The Centre, through solicitor general Tushar Mehta, had informed the court about pitfalls in changing the EWS criteria at this late stage and assured that the general category candidate interests remain unharmed as the government has increased seats in all medical colleges by 25%. It was the single-most important point that persuaded the bench to sustain the EWS quota and the existing determinant criteria for the 2021-22 academic year.
Justice Chandrachud said, “There’s an urgent need to commence the process of counselling…”