The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict in the plea relating to NEET postgraduate admissions in which reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Economically Weaker Section (EWS) introduced by the Central government in the All-India Quota (AIQ) seats in State government medical institutions has been challenged [Neil Aurelio Nunes v. Union of India]..A Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna before reserving its verdict observed that it has to pronounce an order taking into account "national interest" and NEET counselling has to begin in view of the same."We have been hearing this for two days, we must start counselling in national interest," Justice Chandrachud remarked before the Bench rose.The Central government during the hearing, suggested that any revised criteria should be made applicable prospectively and the present counselling and admission should be held as per the existing criteria.The government also defended the OBC reservation as well as the ₹8 lakh income criterion for determining EWS.The Bench heard the parties at length today before reserving its decision..The case relates to petitions challenging reservation for OBC and EWS introduced by the Central government in the AIQ seats in State government medical institutions.One of the aspects the Court is specifically examining is the feasibility of having ₹8 lakh as a cap to avail the EWS quota for PG medical admissions.During the hearing of the case on October 25, the Central government had assured the Court that the counselling for PG medical courses will not start till the Court decides the matter.The Central government had subsequently told the Supreme Court on November 25 that it is proposing to revisit the criteria for determining the EWS reservation. It then constituted an expert committee for the same.The ongoing counselling process for NEET PG courses has been put on hold due to the case and this led to doctors in Delhi protesting against the government demanding that the hearing of the case be expedited and the counselling and admission process be completed as early as possible.The Centre filed an affidavit before the top court on January 1, stating that it has decided to stick to the existing criteria of ₹8 lakh annual income limit for determination of EWS reservation with respect to the ongoing admissions to the NEET PG courses.The Centre informed the top court that the expert committee constituted by the government to reassess the criteria suggested that the existing criteria may be continued for ongoing admissions, while the revised criteria suggested by the committee may be adopted from the next admission cycle.The protests by doctors also prompted the Centre to seek an early hearing in the matter due to which the case came to be listed this week..During the hearing today, Senior Advocate Arvind Datar appearing for the petitioner, submitted that no reasons have been given by the Central government for rejecting the Sinho Commission report on economic reservation.He said that there was no proper assessment done to arrive at the figure of ₹8 lakh annual income as the criterion for determining economic backwardness. "Income criteria of ₹8 lakh is arbitrary, assets criteria is even worse. 5 acres of agricultural land- keeping national limit of 5 acre is completely wrong. In Kerala it's impossible to have 5 acres of land due to population density. There is no answer on what basis is this arrived at. (Values of) residential flats in Bombay, Chennai are so different," Datar said.He said that the limit should be kept to 2.5 lakh for this year's counselling."₹8 lakh is completely arbitrary. You Lordships may direct ₹2.5 lakh should be limit for this year for today's counselling. Rest we can see later. Let us at least preserve integrity of Sinho Commission," he submitted.Senior Advocate Anand Grover also agreed with Datar's submission that the ₹8 lakh criterion is arbitrary."₹8 lakh limit allows the creamy layer to come in too. The economically weaker section criteria of nutrition, landlessness, employment etc is completely ignored. The figure of 8L is arbitrary," he said..Advocate Archana Pathak Dave, representing resident doctors said that the decision on EWS criteria can wait and what needs to be done on priority is to ensure that counselling starts immediately."The counselling has to start immediately because 3rd year residents are about to pass out in 4 months. We'll be left with 33% of workforce. With 3rd wave coming we need doctors. The 8lakh or 5 lakh limit can be looked at later," he said."That's a valid point you're making, not only for the doctors but also the citizens," the Bench remarked..Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Central government submitted that there is no straitjacket formula for determining economic backwardness.He defended the ₹8 lakh income criterion stating that "no single indicator can capture poverty.""The determination of EWS doesn't suffer from over inclusiveness," he said maintaining that the exercise is not to determine those who are "poor"."We are not finding out who is poor. The word used is economically weaker. It doesn't need to be Below Poverty Line (BPL), it can be slightly above poverty line," he said."We are not looking at poor but EWS. even while framing the income tax limit, the govt tends to be inclusive and even includes those who they deem to have savings," the SG added."We are considering family as a unit not individual. Individual might have a ₹5 lakh limit but not family," he added..Senior Advocate P Wilson argued against using same criterion of ₹8 lakh limit for EWC and OBC categories. "The ₹8 lakh OBC criteria, by no stretch of imagination can be compared to EWS. They are comparing unequals with equals. That cannot be done," he stated."Those who are unequal cannot be treated equally in law," he stated..The petitioner Dr. Neil Nunes was represented through Dubey Law Associates and the matter was filed through advocate Charu Mathur. .Read a live account of court hearing here.