New Delhi: India’s apex court on Thursday completed hearing arguments of both sides on a petition opposing reservations for other backward classes (OBCs) in educational institutions, thereby moving a step closer to passing its judgement.
The Supreme Court did not give a date when it would pronounce its judgement. The main petition, clubbed with those filed by several other petitioners—six individuals and seven organizations including Resident Doctors Association, Youth for Equality, All India Equity Forum, Citizens for Equality—questions the constitutional validity of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act 2006, which seeks to reserve 27% seats for people belonging to OBCs in Central educational institutions of higher learning, including the Indian Institutes of Management.
In their arguments, the petitioners argued?that?the Act was passed by the Centre without a proper identification of the beneficiaries of reservation.
They also expressed concern over the government’s priority of providing reservation, including that for the so-called “creamy layer”, or second-generation beneficiaries of reservation, in higher education institutions as opposed to investing resources in primary education.
The Union government, for its part, argued that the Act was passed on objective grounds. It also criticized the argument that its “welfare legislation” was a part of vote-bank politics. It cited the success of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a primary education initiative funded largely by a new tax to show that it was doing enough in the area of primary education.
And, in a submission regarding the inclusion of the creamy layer, the solicitor general, who represented the government, said that seats were to be increased in these institutions, which was why the creamy layer was included—he added that the court should direct the Centre in this regard.
On 7 August, a five-judge bench of the court led by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan had set aside the Centre’s application asking for a removal of a 29 March “interim” stay order that the court had issued halting implementation of reservations for the academic year 2007-08. Following this, counsel for the parties on both sides began submitting their arguments before the court.
A reservation of 22.5% already exists in Central educational institutions for people from the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. “This is a significant matter for the country and its progress. Both sides have placed their viewpoints and the court has patiently heard the arguments in detail and will decide the matter soon,” said P.S. Krishnan, honorary adviser to the human resource development ministry.