NEET-PG Counselling for Medical Admissions to Begin from Jan 12: Health Minister Mandaviya

There is an "urgent need" to begin the admission process, the court had said. said on Sunday NEET-PG counselling for 2021-2022 will start from 12 January.

Updated: January 9, 2022 3:23 PM IST

By News Desk | Edited by Rajashree Seal

NEET-PG Counselling for Medical Admissions to Begin from Jan 12: Health Minister Mandaviya

New Delhi: Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Sunday announced that the NEET-PG counselling for medical admissions of the 2021-2022 session will start from January 12. The minister’s statement came two days after the Supreme Court paved the way for starting the stalled counselling process that it said should go ahead based on the existing 27 per cent OBC (Other Backward Class) and 10 per cent EWS (Economically Weaker Section) reservations in the All India Quota seats. There is an “urgent need” to begin the admission process, the court had said.

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“As assured by the Ministry of Health to the resident doctors, following the order of the Honourable Supreme Court, the NEET-PG counselling is being started by the Medical Counselling Committee from January 12, 2022. This will give more strength to the country in the fight against Corona. My best wishes to all the candidates,” Mandaviya said in a tweet in Hindi.

On Friday, the apex court paved the way for starting the stalled NEET-PG 2021 counselling process based on the existing 27 per cent OBC and 10 per cent EWS reservations in the All India Quota seats, saying there is an “urgent need” to begin the admission process. The order will bring relief to several doctors waiting for admissions to postgraduate courses.

A bench of justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna, which had for two consecutive days heard the matter on applicability of Rs 8 lakh annual income criteria for determination of economically weaker section (EWS), passed an interim order, saying “there is an urgent need to commence the process of counselling”.

It said that it is passing operative directions while the detailed reasons would follow shortly.

“Counselling on the basis of NEET-PG 2021 and NEET- UG 2021 shall be conducted by giving effect to the reservation as provided by the notice dated July 29, 2021, including the 27 per cent reservation for the OBC (other backward class) category and 10 per cent reservation for EWS category in the AIQ (All India Quota) seats,” the bench said.

The apex court passed the interim order on a batch of pleas filed by doctors challenging a July 29, 2021, notice of the Centre and the Medical Counselling Committee (MCC) providing 27 per cent reservation for OBC and 10 per cent for EWS in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET-PG) admissions for medical courses for the academic year 2021-22.

The top court, which passed five operative directions, said that the criteria for the determination of EWS notified by the office memorandum (OM) 2019, including Rs 8 lakh annual income criterion, will be used for identifying the EWS category for candidates, who appeared for the NEET-PG 2021 and NEET-UG (Under Graduate) 2021 examinations.

However, the bench said that the validity of the criteria determined by the Pandey Committee for identification of EWS would prospectively for the future be subject to the final result of the petitions.

“The petitions shall be listed for final hearing on the validity of the EWS criteria as recommended by the Pandey Committee in the third week of March 2022,” the bench said.

The top court said that the submissions, which have been urged before it over a span of two days, necessitate a detailed interim order on the applicability of the EWS criteria as notified by OM 2019 for NEET-PG 2021.

“The formulation of the reasons in the interim order on the EWS reservation would take some time. The validity of the OBC reservation in the AIQ seats in NEET-PG and NEET-UG is upheld for reasons to follow,” the bench said.

The doctors, who challenged the July 29 last year notification for applicability of quotas, were represented by senior advocate Arvind Datar and advocate Tanvi Dubey, and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj represented the Centre.

Several impleadment applications were also filed including by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and individual parties represented by advocate Shashank Ratnoo for the implementation of OBC and EWS quotas from 2021-22.

The order comes as a relief for the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA), which has recently protested over the delay in starting NEET-PG counselling. It has also moved the top court saying there is an urgent need to start the admission process.

It had been said that every year approximately 45,000 candidates are selected as postgraduate (PG) doctors through the NEET-PG and delay in counselling has led to a situation where no junior doctors have been inducted in 2021.

Second and third-year PG doctors are handling patients and are facing increased workload due to the Covid pandemic, FORDA had said. It had called off its strike on December 31 after the government assured that its demands would be looked into.

During the two consecutive day hearing that started on Wednesday, the Centre had told the apex court that the introduction of OBC and EWS reservations after the issuance of NEET-PG exam notification does not amount to “changing the rules of the game” midway.

Justifying the application of Rs 8 lakh income criteria for the EWS category, Mehta said the decision was arrived at after due deliberation by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

The Centre had constituted a three-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 according to an assurance given to the top court to revisit the criteria for determining EWS.

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.”

The Centre has said it has decided to accept the recommendations of the panel to retain the current gross annual family income limit for defining EWS at Rs 8 lakh or less.

It has also told the court that according to the panel, family income is a “feasible criterion” for defining EWS, and in the current situation, a threshold of Rs 8 lakh seems reasonable for the purpose.

On November 25, the Centre had told the top court that it has decided to revisit Rs 8 lakh annual income criteria for determining EWS for reservation in admissions and jobs, and the counselling for the NEET-PG medical courses will be further postponed by four weeks.

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Published Date: January 9, 2022 2:10 PM IST

Updated Date: January 9, 2022 3:23 PM IST