Youth for Equality, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Friday, September 21, 2007

“Wholesale quota will hurt national interest”

SOURCE: Hindu, 20 Sep 2007


New Delhi: Providing 27 per cent OBC quota in all technical, medical or engineering institutions, excluding merit, will cause great prejudice to the national interest, counsel M.L. Lohoty argued in the Supreme Court on Thursday.

“The demand for technicians, engineers and experts for further economic advancement of the country is so great that it would cause a grave prejudice to the national interest if considerations of merit are completely excluded by wholesale reservation of seats in all educational institutions.” In higher education institutions of national importance, particularly in speciality or superspeciality courses, merit, not quota, should be the only consideration.

Mr. Lohoty is appearing for Youth for Equality before a Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, which is hearing petitions questioning the 93rd Constitution Amendment and the OBC quota law enacted under it.

Counsel said reservation should be avoided except in extreme cases of acute backwardness resulting from prior discrimination as in the case of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes and other classes in comparable positions.

“Poverty, which is the ultimate result of inequities and which is the immediate cause and effect of backwardness, has to be eradicated not merely by reservation but with free medical aid, free elementary education, scholarships for higher education and other financial support, free housing, self-employment and settlement schemes,” he said.

Vested interests

Appearing for the Resident Doctors Association of the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, Sushil Kumar Jain said that because of prolonged conferment of benefits unholy vested interests had been created and fortified around reservation and any exclusion from the list evoked severe protests.

Reverse discrimination

Reservation was never meant to be a permanent feature in the constitutional scheme with equality as a theme and it could be applied only as a means of affirmative action to bring about parity in the condition of the people for eradicating eradicate the classes. “In the present political set-up, however, the discriminatory benefits continue even after parity is achieved, resulting in reverse discrimination.”

Mr. Jain said caste was being exploited by governments for furthering their political ends.

“The high objective of uplift of the really poor and backward has been overtaken by the greed for personal growth through segmentation and politicisation, and new additions are being made to the list on account of political pressures rather on the basis of any realistic analysis to determine the backward classes.”

The backward classes’ lists prepared by at least 13 State governments were defective in every aspect, and only a few communities cornered the benefits.

Scrutiny of lists

A scrutiny of the lists of castes would show that they were not prepared after due enquiry and investigation.

In Tamil Nadu, “the Sattanathan Commission report shows that almost 48 per cent benefits of reservation are taken away by nine communities [making 11 per cent of the population] and in comparison to that seven other communities, which constitute 12 per cent population, received only 0.9 per cent of the reservation benefits. The present system at the Centre treats both groups equally.”

Arguments, which began on August 7 on behalf of the petitioners, concluded on Thursday. Solicitor-General G.E. Vahanvati will commence arguments, on behalf of the Centre, on September 25.

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