New Delhi / Mumbai: The government suffered a fresh setback in its bid to reserve 27% seats for candidates of other backward classes (OBCs) in central educational institutions of higher learning, including the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), from this year.
Despite the government’s willingness to exclude the so-called “creamy layer”, or second-generation beneficiaries of reservation, the Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to vacate its 29 March stay on the implementation of the proposed quota.
Turning down the Centre’s plea, the five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, said, “We are not going to pass any interim order.” The bench, however, said it would hear the main petition to examine the constitutional validity of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act 2006.
Human resources development (HRD) minister Arjun Singh, however, maintained the decision is not a setback for the government. “Why should we anticipate that it will take that long? I don’t think it will take that long,” said Singh, when asked if the Centre will make a fresh plea for early resolution of the matter in the court.
“I am glad the court has stuck to its stand and refused to allow the government to subvert all standards for petty politics,” said B.G. Verghese, an honorary visiting professor at the Centre for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank.
Verghese said while the Centre, especially the HRD ministry, was determined to push the quota, the apex court had questioned its premise. Since the Centre had relied on the 1931 Census and used that data for reservation in jobs, the apex court, Verghese said, had only questioned the validity of the data.
“We are very happy with the verdict,” said Gunjan Sharma, a final-year medical undergraduate and member of Youth For Equality, a non-political anti-reservation organization that had filed a public interest litigation against the Centre’s move late last year. “But this means the battle has been prolonged. All of us here who have been funding the defence case have taken personal loans from people we know to fight this case. The photocopies of old state backward commission reports alone cost us Rs70,000. Now, it seems like this will go on for another two-three years.”
Significantly, none of the major political parties publicly opposed the Centre’s move to reserve seats for OBCs in educational institutions.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, a national spokesperson of the principal opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, said, “The Supreme Court order is a rebuff to the hurried manner in which the government sought to deal with the reservation issue. The BJP is all for social empowerment, but the OBC quota issue smacks of political one-upmanship within the Congress party.”
(PTI contributed to this story.)