The Centre on Monday said that it will not start this year’s counselling process for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test, or NEET, till the Supreme Court decides on the validity of the government’s decision to introduce reservations for the Other Backward Classes and the Economically Weaker Sections in the all-India quota for medical courses, reported Live Law.

A plea challenging the validity of 27% reservation for OBCs and 10% for the EWS category in the all-India quota seats in post-graduate medical courses is pending before the Supreme Court.

During Monday’s hearing, Advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the NEET aspirants who have filed the petition, said the counselling is set to begin from Monday as communicated by the Director General of Health Services.

He said that the counselling process might be over before the Supreme Court takes a decision. Justice DY Chandrachud said “students will be in a serious problem” if this happens.

After this, Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj assured the court that the counselling will not commence till the matter is resolved.

Nataraj also clarified that the notification issued by the Director General of Health Services was meant just for verification purposes.

“We will take your word for it then, so long as the students are not counselled,” Justice Chandrachud observed.

Nataraj also told Datar that he can contact him if there was any problem regarding the matter, reported Bar and Bench.

From candidates who clear the National Eligibility Entrance Test, 15% seats in Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, or MBBS courses, and 50% seats in Master of Science and Doctor of Medicine courses are filled through the all-India quota.

The case

The petitioners have sought quashing of a July 29 notification issued by the Medical Counselling Committee in which it had announced the reservations in the all-India quota seats, beginning from academic session 2021-’22.

The petitioners had asked whether there should be vertical or horizontal reservations for the quota seats. Reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes is called vertical reservation, according to The Indian Express. It applies separately to each group.

Horizontal reservation refers to equal opportunity given to other categories of beneficiaries such as women, the transgender community, and individuals with disabilities.

The petitioners had also asked whether an income of Rs 8 lakh was a valid criterion of getting reservation under the EWS category.

In the last hearing on October 7, the Supreme Court had questioned the Centre’s rationale for fixing the Rs 8 lakh limit for determining the EWS category. The court had asked the Union government what exercise it had conducted before arriving at the figure.