The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the existing criteria for admissions this year to undergraduate and post-graduate courses of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test under the Other Backward Classes and Economically Weaker Section quota, Live Law reported.

This means that 27% of the seats this year will be reserved for OBCs and 10% of them for those in the Economically Weaker Section category. The annual income criteria of Rs 8 lakh for the Economically Weaker Section quota will also hold for this year’s admissions.

While the court upheld the constitutional validity of the 27% reservation for the OBCs, the validity of criteria for determining the EWS quota will be heard at length in the third week of March, Bar and Bench reported. During this hearing, the validity of annual income criteria of Rs 8 lakh for the EWS will also be looked into.

A three-judge bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud was hearing a petition filed by a group of National Eligibility cum Entrance Test aspirants in postgraduate and undergraduate medical courses belonging to the general category. The petition challenged the quota for Other Backward Classes and Economically Weaker Section.

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

On Thursday, the court had reserved its order on the matter, but had noted that counselling for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test post graduate courses should begin in “national interest”.

At Thursday’s hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre had suggested that any revised criteria on the quota should be made applicable prospectively and counselling and admission for this academic year should be held based on the existing criteria.

The government had also defended the Rs 8 lakh income criterion for determining the Economically Weaker Section category.

Meanwhile, appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Arvind Datar had argued that the annual income criteria for admissions in the category this year should be Rs 2.5 lakh, Live Law reported.

Earlier, a three-member committee formed by the Centre had recommended that the Rs 8 lakh annual income criteria should be retained. The committee had been formed after 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.

On Thursday too, the Supreme Court had expressed its reservations on the three-member panel’s findings on the annual income limit.

“It appears what the committee has sought to do is offer a justification for the 8 lakh criterion,” Chandrachud had said, according to Live Law. “They have tried to justify the 8 lakh cut-off post facto.”

The matter gained importance after hundreds of resident doctors at medical colleges in Delhi held a protest last week against delay in college allotments after the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test. The protests were called off after Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya assured that the matter will be dealt with at the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court then agreed to hear the matter on an urgent basis.