The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear the cases related to reservations for the Other Backward Classes and the Economically Weaker Sections in the all-India quota for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test, or NEET, on the next day, reported Live Law.

A clutch of petitions 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.

The Union government had requested the court on Monday to list the matter for urgent hearing the next day. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also mentioned the matter before Chief Justice of India NV Ramana on Tuesday morning, seeking an urgent listing of the case. The matter was originally listed for hearing on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Ramana said that the case was being dealt by a three-judge bench but only a two-judge bench, besides the chief justice’s bench, were available this week.

“Let me see if tomorrow, some judge is available, we’ll constitute a bench,” he said. “Let me see. If possible I’ll constitute a three-judge bench or it will go before a division bench tomorrow.”

The solicitor general told the court that resident doctors were protesting and that their concerns are genuine.

“It concerns EWS [economically weaker sections] of society,” Mehta said. “There’s a statement made by us which prevents further counselling of resident doctors.”

In October, the Centre had said that it will not start counselling for medical courses till the case is settled.

Due to the delay in counselling, nearly 50,000 medical aspirants have been left in the lurch.

The case

In 2019, the central government had extended reservation in education and jobs to poorer sections with an annual income of less than Rs 8 lakh. This is meant for sections of society not covered by any reservation.

A group of NEET aspirants in postgraduate and undergraduate medical courses, belonging to the general category, had filed a petition challenging the quota for OBCs and EWS catogories.

They had argued that the quotas were not justified when there is no data to show adequate representation of OBCs and when there is no demand for reservation.

On November 25, the government had said it will review the criteria of an annual income of Rs 8 lakh for providing reservation under the EWS category. It had also formed a committee to look into revisit the income limit for providing reservation.

The Committee had recommended retaining the annual income criteria but also advised excluding families that have an agricultural land of 5 acres and above irrespective of their income. It had, however, asked the government to introduce the revisions from the next academic year as doing it now might lead to complications.

In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court on December 31, the government had said that it has accepted the panel’s recommendations.

At an earlier hearing of the petition on October 8, the Supreme Court had observed that the criteria of annual income of Rs 8 lakh appeared to be arbitrary and had asked the Centre to explain the rationale behind it.

The court had asked whether the Centre had simply extended the income limit for the creamy layer among OBCs to the Economically Weaker Sections category as well.