Published: 26th July 2022
Supreme Court to hear EWS criteria in NEET PG reservation case. Here's all you need to know about the matter
Meanwhile, the MCC has released the date for the NEET PG 2022 counselling process to begin, even as students deal with the NEXT conundrum for 2023
The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test Postgraduation (NEET PG) exam was conducted on May 21 by the National Board of Examinations (NBE) this year. The results were out on June 1 and, now, after more than a month has passed, aspirants are impatiently awaiting for the counselling process to begin.
On July 24, the Medical Counselling Committee (MCC) released the schedule for the NEET PG 2022 counselling. The process will now kick off on September 1, almost three months after the results were announced.
The case against EWS reservation in NEET PG AIQ
One possible reason for the delay might be the fact that the Supreme Court is due to hear the case against the 10% reservation for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) category in government institutes tomorrow, July 27. The Supreme Court had asked the government to explain why the criteria for the EWS category were set at the same margin as the creamy layer of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category, at an annual family income of not more than Rs 8 lakh. The petition was filed by some NEET PG aspirants last year, challenging the EWS reservation in the All India Quota (AIQ) for the NEET PG counselling and claiming that it was disadvantageous to "meritorious" students. They claimed that the reservation should not apply at the PG level, where all students write the exam as MBBS-qualified doctors.
However, in a hearing on October 25, 2021, a Bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud stated that the EWS category was extremely ‘pragmatic’. At the time, the NEET PG 2021 results had been declared and students were awaiting the counselling, which had been delayed because of the ongoing hearing on the matter. The court had then postponed the counselling and had asked the Centre to file an affidavit answering a list of questions explaining the rationale behind the criteria for EWS category. "You can't just pull numbers out of thin air," the court had said. Following that direction, the Centre submitted an affidavit in November 2021 explaining the numbers behind the criteria.
In a hearing later that month, the Supreme Court was told by the Centre that they are looking to revisit the criteria, after which the top court pushed the matter to January 2022. During the hearing in January, after massive protests from NEET PG aspirants, who were left stranded waiting for the counselling to begin, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the reservation for the OBC and EWS categories in the NEET PG counselling and gave the go-ahead for the counselling to begin.
The Medical Counselling Committee (MCC), which conducts the NEET PG counselling, then began the process on January 12, almost four months after the results were released. However, the court has yet to decide on the criteria for eligibility for the EWS category, which will be the matter in question at the hearing tomorrow. The Centre had formed a three-member committee to revisit the criteria, which included Ajay Bhushan Pandey, former finance secretary, VK Malhotra, member secretary, ICSSR, and Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Adviser to the Centre. The committee, in its report said that had recommended that the current limit of family income of Rs 8 lakh to qualify as EWS category be retained, calling it "reasonable for the purpose". This final hearing was supposed to have happened in March 2022.
NEXT or NEET PG? What's in store for 2023?
NEET PG aspirants also have a specific set of worries when it comes to the academic calendar for 2023. In 2019, the National Medical Commission (NMC) had issued a notification that said the NEET PG and the Foreign Medical Graduate Exam, which is a licensing exam for Indian medical graduates from abroad to practice Medicine in India, will be replaced with the National Exit Test (NEXT) from 2023. With no follow-up notice, students are uncertain whether this will be implemented. The Federation of Resident Doctors Association India (FORDA India) issued a statement on July 25 demanding that the NMC issue a clarification on the matter. "...we deeply express our disappointment at the continuous communication gap from the NMC and NBE over the upcoming exam session in 2023 and the implementation of the NEXT exam as a replacement for the NEET PG examination," said the statement.
Earlier this month, in response to Right to Information (RTI) applications filed by students with regards to the implementation of the NEXT exam, the NMC had said that according to Section 15(1) of the NMC Act (2019), the NEXT exam has been scheduled for 2023 to replace NEET PG and the FMGE. "The modalities of NEXT will be clear once NEXT regulations are published by the NMC," the reply said.