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SC stays OBC quota in IITs, IIMs
S.S. Negi/Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 29
In a severe jolt to the UPA government’s reservation policy extending the 27 per cent quota for OBCs in the central education institutions of higher learning, the supreme court today stayed the operation of the relevant clause of the act passed last year to facilitate this, saying the entire issue needed to be examined in detail before implementing the scheme.

The section 6 of the Central Education Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006, stayed by the court, provided for implementing the 27 per cent reservation for the OBCs students from the coming academic session in institutions like IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, different PGIs and others for which admission process would start in May.

An interim order passed by a bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and Lokeshwer Singh Panta said, “It would be desirable to keep in hold the operation of the act so far as it relates to section 6 thereof for the OBCs category only.”

The order came on a bunch of PILs filed by advocate Ashok Thakur, Residents Doctors Association of AIIMs and Maulana Azad Medical College and Youth For Equality, an organisation of the anti-reservation students.

But the court made it clear that it was not staying the operation of the entire act, particularly its implementation pertaining to the quota for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students in these institutions because the two categories derived the reservation benefit from the constitution itself.

The operation of OBC reservation was stayed on the ground that the government had not collected any authentic data to determine the exact percentage of OBC population in the country and did not exclude the “creamy layer” from the reservation benefit in the act as had been laid down by the apex court in the Mandal commission case.

“It needs no reiteration that the creamy layer rule is a necessary bargain between the competing ends of caste-based reservations and the principle of secularism. It is part of constitutional scheme,” the court said.

The court was not satisfied with the government’s stand that the “creamy layer” rule is applicable only in respect of article 16(4) of the constitution (dealing with reservation for backwards in government jobs) and not to article 15(5) (on reservation in the educational institutions). It was not based on any sound foundation, the entire scheme of the OBC reservation required to be examined in details, the court held, while posting final hearing on the PILs on all legal aspects for the third week of August.

The court was also not satisfied with the government stand that in the process of providing the reservation for OBC students those from the general category would not be affected because the number of seats had been increased in the proportion of the 27 per quota in these institutions. “By increasing the number of seats for the purpose of reservation unequals are treated as equals,” it observed.

If there was any possibility of increasing the seats in the absence of reservation in these institutions, then they would have gone to the general categories, the court said, rejecting the centre’s submission that the 27 per cent quota was not being implemented in one go but in “staggered” manner over a period of three years and it would not affect the students of the general categories.

“It could not be explained (by the government) as to why a firm data base could not be evolved first, so that the exercise (of reservation) could be undertaking thereafter,” the court said. The centre was asked by the court to initiate or continue a process, if it has any, for determining a broad-based foundation for OBCs’ population notwithstanding the pendency of the case.

It pointed out that the 1931 caste-based census to determine the percentage of OBC quota had been rendered “irrelevant” on the face of the national sample survey and the national health and family survey of the government itself had established a contrary picture than that of the Mandal commission report, which had put the OBC population at 52 per cent.

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