On Economically Weaker Section Quota, Centra To Review Key Criterion

The court has given the Centre a month and the next hearing will be on January 6.
The criteria to determine the Economically Weaker Sections for reservation in medical studies will be reconsidered, the Centre told the Supreme Court today during the hearing of a petition challenging its decision to implement EWS reservation in the all-India quota. The current income limit for the Economically Weaker Sections is less than Rs 8 lakh per annum and the Centre has sought four weeks to reconsider the issue. Till then, there will be no counseling for NEET, said Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre.
The court has given the Centre a month’s time and the next hearing of the case will be held on January 6.
The decision to review the matter came after the court recently questioned the Centre on its basis of fixing an annual of Rs 8 lakh for the Economically Weaker Sections category, which is the same for determining the creamy layer for OBCs.
During a hearing on October 21, the top court had raised questions and at one point, the judges even warned that they would put the EWS notification on hold.
The bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud had questioned the government if there was any basis for the Rs 8 lakh ceiling. The court asked if there was any social, regional or any other survey or data that indicated that Other Backward Classes who are in the income group of less than Rs 8 lakh per annum are socially and educationally backward.
“You must have some demographic or social or socio-economic data. You can’t just pluck the 8 million figure out of thin air,” Justice DY Chandrachud said.
“You are making the unequal equal by imposing a limit of Rs 8 lakh. In OBCs, people with income less than 8 lakhs suffer from social and educational backwardness. Under the constitutional scheme, EWS are not socially and educationally backward. This is a policy matter but the court is entitled to know the reasons adopted for arriving at the policy decision in order to determine its constitutionality,” Justice DY Chandrachud said.
The bench had also questioned how the same income criteria could be applied across the country.  “How can a person’s earning in a small town or village be equated with those earning the same income in a metro city?” the court asked.

The petitioners had argued that per capita income of states is different and applying the same criteria may not be reasonable. Even House Rent Allowance given to a government employee is not same and depends on place of posting and suggested that income criteria for EWS reservation should be linked to cost of living of a place instead of making it uniform across the country.
The Centre, however, had justified its decision, arguing that the principle of fixing the amount is rational and in keeping with Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution.
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