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A bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud questioned the Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj “What do you think is the motive for establishing the Rs. 8 lakh as an income criterion? You must prove what were the facts before you?” The bench also comprises Justices Vikram Nath as well as BV Nagarathna, questioning how the income criterion be used in a uniform manner across the nation. Inquiring about the Centre based on the annual income limit of Rs 8 lakh for those in the economically weaker section (EWS) category that is also used to determine the creamy OBCs’ income, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked whether it conducted a study or conducted an exercise before making its decision. The Supreme Court on Thursday put several serious questions to the Union Government regarding its decision to adopt the criteria of the annual income of Rupees 8 lakhs to determine Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) for reservation in the All India Quota for seats under the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET).
Economically Weaker Section (EWS):
Nataraj made a submission to the bench that the implementation of reservation was a matter of policy. The bench said that you can’t claim it’s an issue of a policy when we’re seeking the reason of Rs 8 lakh to determine EWS eligibility. The counsel for the Centre argued that similar criteria of Rs 8 lakh were used to determine the cream layer of the OBC quota. In 2015, it was set at Rs 6.5 lakh. Then in 2017, it was increased to 8 lakh. The bench also reaffirmed the process used to arrive at the Rs 8 lakh, or was this criterion simply mechanically removed from the criteria used for OBC? Nataraj said that to arrive at this conclusion there was debate and properly noting the decision, which was endorsed by the Cabinet. But, not satisfied with his explanation, the bench demanded a citation of the study that was conducted for it at the time. In this case in question, it was concerned with economic backwardness in the purest sense.
The Supreme Court posed the issues before it during the hearing of a plethora of petitions from Neil Aurelio Nunes and others contesting the Centre’s announcement on July 29 to establish OBC, EWS quota in NEET-All India Quota starting from in the current session of Postgraduate programs in medical institutions across the nation. Even though Nataraj said there was a deliberate discussion and the proper notes were that were approved by the Cabinet The court demanded Nataraj to prove the facts or a study that was conducted contemporaneously to prove it. The court referred the issue to the judge on October 20.
It stated that even the House Rent Allowance granted to government employees isn’t the same and is dependent on the place of employment and suggested that the criteria for income for EWS reservations should be tied to the cost of living for a specific area instead of being universal across the nation. It also said that the income threshold established in the OBC category to determine a creamy lawyer cannot be applied to the EWS category, too. The report said there was no notion of social backwardness in those in the EWS category.