NEW DELHI: The Centre has told the Supreme Court that it has decided to accept the recommendation of a three-member panel to retain the current gross annual family income limit for Economically Weaker Section (EWS) of Rs 8 lakh or less. In its affidavit filed in a matter related to admissions for NEET-PG, the Centre said the panel has recommended that “only those families whose annual income is up to Rs 8 lakh would be eligible to get the benefit of EWS reservation”.
“I respectfully submit that the central government has decided to accept the recommendations of the committee, including the recommendation of applying the new criteria prospectively,” R Subrahmanyam, Secretary, Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, who filed the affidavit on behalf of the Centre told the top court.
The government had constituted the member committee, comprising Ajay Bhushan Pandey, former finance secretary, VK Malhotra, member secretary, ICSSR and Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Adviser to Centre, on November 30, last year as per the assurance given to the top court to revisit the criteria for determining the economically weaker sections.
The committee in its report submitted on December 31 last year to the Centre said, “The current gross annual family income limit for EWS of Rs 8 lakh or less may be retained. In other words only those families whose annual income is up to Rs 8 lakh would be eligible to get the benefit of EWS reservation.” It said that the definition of ‘family’ and income would remain the same as those in the officer memorandum dated January 17, 2019.
The panel recommended, “EWS may, however exclude, irrespective of income, a person whose family has 5 acres of agricultural land and above. The residential asset criteria may altogether be removed.” On the issue of applicability of criteria, the panel said that it has deliberated upon the vexed question as to from which year the criteria suggested in the report should be used, adopted and made applicable.
The panel said it found that the existing criteria (the criteria applicable prior to this report) is in use since 2019 and the question of desirability of the existing criteria and a possibility of its being revisited arose only recently in the batch of petitions related to admissions in NEET-PG.
“By the time this court started examining the said question and the central government decided to revisit the criteria by appointing this committee, the process with respect to some appointments/admissions have taken place or must have been at an irreversible and advanced stage. The existing system which is going on since 2019, if disturbed at the end or fag-end of the process would create more complications than expected both for the beneficiaries as well as for the authorities,” it said.