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SC reserves verdict in OBC quota case
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, November 1
After a marathon hearing on the contentious OBC quota in central institutions of higher learning, the Supreme Court today reserved its verdict on the validity of the new Reservation Act passed by Parliament in December last year.

A five-judge constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India K.G Balakrishnan reserved the pronouncement of the judgement after a gruelling 25-day hearing in different phases stretching nearly three months.

The hearing on the validity of the new OBC Reservation Act, 2006 was taken on priority by the Bench, consisting of four other judges Arijit Pasayat, C.K Thakker, R.V Raveendran and Dalveer Bhandari, on a special request of the Union Government for early disposal of the case after it had failed in its repeated efforts to get the apex court stay vacated on the Act.

Almost all top constitutional brains of the country poured their legal knowledge in their argument in favour and against the OBC reservation law depending upon which side they were supporting.

While the government team was led by 80-year-old former Attorney General K.Parasaran, requested by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to bail the government out of the quota imbroglio and Solicitor General G.V Vahanvati with Ram Jethmalani and Gopal Subramaniam pitching in with their contribution, legal experts like Fali Nariman, Harish Salve, Mukul Rohtagi, K.K Venugopal, Rajiv Dhawan and P.P Rao argued for the anti-reservationists.

While the petitioners’ counsel raised contentious issues like lack of valid data of caste-based census to arrive at the 27 per cent quota figure for the OBCs, exclusion of “creamy layer” from the reservation benefit, a questionable method adopted by the government for enhancing the seats in central institutions like IITs, IIMs, AIIMS and PGIs, government lawyers tried to defend its policy.

They said since the apex court in the Mandal Commission judgement had upheld the validity of 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in the government jobs, there was no need to have fresh figure on their population to fix the quota in the educational institutions.

On the question of “creamy layer” the government lawyers contended that the constitutional parameters relating to reservation in public employment and admission in educational institutions could not be put on the same footing as the two were entirely different propositions.

The government said the extension of the OBC quota in the admission was a further step taken by the government to implement its policy of “affirmative” action to achieve the goal of social equality by providing the opportunity of better education to those oppressed for centuries.

The petitioners’ counsel said those who had challenged the validity of the law were not against the “affirmative” action to uplift the deprived sections but the government policy was fraught with the danger of only economically advanced among OBCs cornering the entire benefit.

The court had put sharp questions to the government on its education policy with planning to spend Rs 36,000 crore for creating infrastructure in institutions of higher learning to implement the quota, while a vast majority of children in the country do not have access to primary and elementary education.

A Division Bench of the apex court in an interim order passed in March had stayed the implementation of the OBC quota and later had also rejected its review petition. The government plea for vacating the stay was also rejected by the constitution Bench, before it commenced hearing on the validity of the Act.

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