December 2, 2021

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Centre to review Rs 8 lakh income cap for EWS quota

The Centre will review the Rs 8 lakh family income ceiling for Economically Weaker Sections to apply for 10% reserved seats in central education institutes. The Modi government’s submission in the Supreme Court on Thursday came after repeated court raps on the rationale behind the current ceiling. Incidentally, Rs 8 lakh family income is limit to eliminate OBC ‘creamy layer’ from the ambit of job and education reservations.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta said that the government had taken a considered view to revisit the criteria for availing the EWS quota. The government had initially defended the Rs 8 lakh ceiling on the ground a scientific review was impractical, but on Thursday offered to complete the process in four weeks. SC allowed the SG to come back to the court with a new proposal. It will hear the case next on January 6. Mehta said that the NEET all-India quota counselling will stand deferred till then. Some NEET candidates had challenged a government notification setting aside 27% quotas for OBCs and 10% for economically weaker sections in the all-India quota.

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While hearing their petitions, SC had said the limit was arbitrary and adopting Rs 8 lakh as family income for EWS category was not rationale. The ground for reservations for OBCs was socio-educational backwardness while basis of EWS reservations was purely economic. The same yardstick cannot hence apply, it said. The court demanded to know how same income limit made sense for people in rural and urban areas. It asked if Centre had accounted for cost of living and purchasing power differences before fixing Rs 8 lakh limit. It also wanted to know if the figure was based on the recommendation of any committee which had examined issues at length.

SC insisted that governments which provide reservations must do due diligence to assess the numbers that would benefit from such quotas and if the data warranted such reservations. It had also insisted that the well-heeled be kept out of the process. 10% reservations for EWS category takes overall reservations to 69%. Reservations for SCs is 15%, for STs 7% and 27% for OBCs.

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