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OBC quota: No respite for Centre
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 17
The centre’s efforts to get the Supreme Court stay on the OBC Reservation Act vacated today suffered a setback with a Bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan deferring the hearing on its application till July 31, but stating that a decision about setting up of a constitution Bench to hear a bunch of petitions against the Act would be taken next week.

If the constitution Bench assembles before July 31, the government’s fresh application for vacating the stay might also be placed before it.

The centre’s fresh move was strongly resisted by a battery of senior advocates appearing for about half-a-dozen petitioners challenging the validity of the new OBC Reservation Act, providing for 27 per cent reservation to the Backward Classes in central education institutions.

Senior advocate Rajiv Dhawan, appearing for one of the petitioners, said the government’s efforts to move another application was nothing but an attempt to file an appeal before a three-judge Bench against a two-judge Bench order, which was not permitted in the apex court.

He said even a review petition against the stay order was rejected by the two-judge Bench, which had referred the matter to a constitution Bench. The fresh application was nothing but a “review of review” which again was not permitted, he said.

Solicitor-general G.E. Vahanvati virtually showed his frustration when the court fixed the hearing for July 31, stating that “it will mean that this year will go” without the quota being implemented.

The government was keen to get the quota implemented from this academic session in IITs, IIMs, NITs and other institutions as the Act provides for implementing the 27 per cent reservation in staggered manner during the next three years.

The centre attempted to get the stay vacated by citing the apex court ruling of 1994 in the Tamil Nadu reservation case directing the state to increase seats for general category students in view of the reservation limit there fixed at 69 per cent, which was much higher then the 50 per cent limit fixed by the apex court.

In consonance with the ruling, a fresh direction to this effect was issued by the centre on May 7 to the Tamil Nadu government, the centre had said.

The argument of the centre was that if Tamil Nadu could be permitted to persist with the 69 per cent reservation till the validity of its law was decided, against which a petition was pending, the same logic should apply to the new OBC Reservation Act, permitting its implementation as interim measure till the constitution Bench decided its validity.

The solicitor-general told the court that the centre’s case was far stronger than the Tamil Nadu case as it had not disturbed the general category seats for implementing the OBC quota in central institutions as proportional increase had been made in the available seats.

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