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Centre urges SC to allow NEET-PG counselling; argues EWS income ceiling of Rs 8 lakh should continue

Centre urges SC to allow NEET-PG counselling; argues EWS income ceiling of Rs 8 lakh should continue

Doctors protest outside JJ hospital over the delay in NEET-PG 2021 counselling and other issues, in Mumbai, Friday, December 31, 2021. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Centre told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it would not accept a position whereby those falling in the OBC or the EWS category, whether before or after the exercise of revisiting the criterion of Rs 8 lakh annual income, are deprived of something that is legitimately due to them.

It urged the court to let the stalled NEET-PG counselling be allowed to go on as the demand of resident doctors is genuine and the country needs new doctors.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) N V Ramana and justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli took note of the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared in the court on behalf of the Centre, that the matter pertains to admissions to post-graduate medical courses and that students have been facing difficulties.

The government's counsel also argued that the government-appointed committee has come to the conclusion that the income limit of Rs 8 lakh per year for the EWS category was reasonable and submitted to the court that the allotments should not be affected by any change in it.

The bench, also comprising Justice A.S. Bopanna, asked senior advocates Arvind Datar and Shyam Divan, representing the petitioners, their views on Mehta's suggestion on commencement of counselling. "Need to put an end to this uncertainty," it noted.

The petitioners' counsel insisted that the rules of the game should not change. He also cited the fact that the government had not made any study of the income levels before arriving at the ceiling of Rs 8 lakh, as was evident from the fact that the government had no ready answer when the bench had asked to explain its basis. It applied its mind, argued the petitioner's counsel, only after the apex court questioned the rationale of arriving at such a figure and was insisting on it again without a substantive review of the same.

During the hearing, Divan argued that postgraduate admissions must be completely merit-based and reservation must be minimal and referred to Supreme Court judgments which hold that there should be no reservation in super-speciality courses.

The matter yesterday was adjourned and it will be taken up today after the hearing on fresh cases are over.

NEET PG counselling for the 50 per cent all India quota (AIQ) seats was scheduled to begin on October 25 last year but the MCC had postponed it following the Supreme Court's direction.

NEET PG Counselling was delayed after a plea was filed in the apex court against the Centre's decision to revisit the criteria for the determination of the EWS quota in the All India Quota. Resident doctors of various hospitals under the banner of the Federation of Resident Doctors' Association (FORDA) in Delhi and other parts of the country protested over a delay in the counselling session.

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