The Union government told the Supreme Court yesterday (25 November) that it had taken a "considered decision" to revisit the annual income criteria for determining Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) entitled to reservation benefits.
The case pertains to the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) aspirants challenging a notification released by the Union government on 29 July this year announcing 27 per cent quota for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and 10 per cent reservation for the EWS in the All India Quota (AIQ) category.
The EWS quota was meant for those who earn less than Rs 8 lakh annually, and did not benefit from any other existing reservation.
Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, representing the government, told the apex court it would take four weeks for the exercise. Previously, the court had asked the government to reveal the logic and the studies conducted to decide the “exact figure” of Rs 8 lakh as the annual income limit for the EWS category.
In a previous hearing, the Supreme Court chided the government for not filing an affidavit explaining how the upper limit of Rs 8 lakh annual income was established to identify the EWS category.
“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... you need to answer them,” Justice D Y Chandrachud had said.
“You cannot just pick Rs 8 lakh out of the thin air and fix it as a criterion. There has to be some basis, some study. Tell us whether any demographic study or data was taken into account in fixing the limit. How do you arrive at this exact figure? Can the Supreme Court strike down the criteria if no study was undertaken?” the court had asked the government.
"The union government has taken a considered decision to revisit the criteria for determining the economically weaker sections in terms of the provisions of the Explanation to Article 15 of the Constitution inserted by the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act 2019,” the bench led by Justice Chandrachud recorded in its order, The Hindu reports. Mehta, along with Additional Solicitor-General K M Natraj, said that the government will set up a committee for the purpose.
The government also told the court that the NEET counselling would stand postponed until a decision was taken on the EWS quota after the four-week study.
“The Solicitor General states that a period of four weeks would be required for this exercise [revisiting EWS criteria] and pending its conclusion, the date for counselling shall stand postponed...” the court order said.
The bench scheduled the next hearing of the case to 6 January next year.
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