Inadequate response: On income criteria to identify EWS quota

The ₹8 lakh income criteria to identify EWS are not reasonably explained by the Government

If available consumer expenditure surveys such as the 2011-12 NSSO report, Key Indicators of Household Consumer Expenditure are any indication, a bulk of the population will be eligible for reservations under the “below ₹8 lakh” cut-off under the EWS category, rendering the limit irrational. The committee’s assertion that ₹ 8 lakh corresponds to the “effective income tax exemption limit” even as the only income slab exempt from paying taxes was for those earning below ₹2.5 lakh, also renders the criteria on “being economically weak” as less stringent. The submission lays emphasis on the fact that outcomes in the recent entrance and recruitment examinations (NEET, UPSC, JEE) showed an even bunching of eligible candidates in different income brackets (0-₹2.5 lakh, ₹2.5-₹5 lakh, ₹5-₹8 lakh), but it does not explain why marks cut-offs were even lower in recruitment exams than that of the socially and educationally backward OBCs. The validity of the 103rd Constitution Amendment, through which the EWS quota was introduced in 2019, is in any case still before a Constitution Bench. But the apex court must seek more clarity on the criteria adopted by the Government committee to set the income limit for identifying the EWS sections eligible for reservations.

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