Youth for Equality, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Thursday, March 08, 2007

SC reserves verdict on quota stay plea


New Delhi • The Supreme Court yesterday reserved its verdict on a plea for an interim stay during the academic session 2007-08 on the latest law reserving 27.5 per cent seats for backward class students in higher educational institutions.

A bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and L S Panta reserved the verdict after hearing arguments for 150 minutes for and against the plea for interim stay on the law during the upcoming academic session.

While reserving the judgement, the bench also directed counsels for various students' bodies, including the Youth for Equality, seeking an interim stay on the law, to file their remaining arguments in written form by March 12.

Pleading for an interim stay on the Central Educational Institutions (Reservations in Admission) Act, 2006, counsels for student bodies Fail S Nariman and P P Rao contended that the government has enacted the law merely to garner political mileage.

Nariman said that, "the government has absolutely no identifiable caste data" to justify its step to provide 27.5 per cent reservation in educational institutions to SEBC or Other Backward Classes (OBC) students.

He pointed out to the bench that the government has sought to provide 27.5 per cent reservations on the basis of the last caste-based census conducted in 1931, which has no relevance in 2007.

He contended that in the absence of any relevant caste-based data, no reservation could be provided, as it would run the risk of missing the targeted population.

On a suggestion by the bench if the government should be allowed to implement the law after excluding the creamy layer among the OBCs, Nariman said that, "that modality too would be as vague as the law itself" in the absence of any valid caste figures to identify the targeted beneficiaries.

Nariman and Rao challenged the Mandal Commission's finding, which put the percentage population of other backward classes in India at 52, saying that these figures are not reliable.

Supporting the law for reservation to backward category students, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramniam said, "Economic and educational backwardness has been caused and is perpetuated by social backwardness, which is a reality in Indian society divided on caste basis."

To justify the reservation for backward students in educational institutions, he quoted extensively from the 1992 ruling in Indira Sawhney versus government of India case on implementation of Mandal Commission recommendation, which provided for 27.5 per cent reservation to OBC candidates in government jobs.


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