Former IIT don takes Centre to Supreme Court over quota math

Former IIT don takes Centre to Supreme Court over quota math

New Delhi: An incorrect calculation could cost the government more than Rs2,000 crore when it implements a scheme to reserve 27% of the seats at 12 Central universities for other backward classes, or OBCs, in the next three years, claims a legal challenge scheduled for hearing at the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The writ petition filed by P.V. Indiresan, former director at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, says the Union government had made a “grievous" mistake in determining the percentage of general category seats to be added to compensate for reservation for OBCs in these institutions.

In April this year, the apex court had ruled that the government could go ahead and implement the Central Educational Institutions (Reservations in Admission) Act, 2006, that allows for 27% reservation for OBCs. Section 5 of the Act mandates that the universities maintain general category seats at 77.5% of the total, as it originally was before the quota for OBCs, which is in addition to 22.5% seats reserved for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in these Centrally funded institutions.

Simply put, it means that in a class of 100 students, 27 seats will have to be added for the general category to compensate for 27 seats newly reserved for OBCs.

The petition, reviewed by Mint, claims that the government has overestimated the number of general seats to be added (42,000 in three years) by assuming that the percentage rise in such seats would be 54% instead of 27%, citing a 3 July press release issued by the ministry of human resource development.

The petition goes on to say that, according to section 5 of the Act, there could be no reservation on the additional seats.

“In that case, all 54% of seats should belong to the general category," said a Supreme Court lawyer, who did not wish to be named.

If this reasoning is accepted by the court, the increase of 42,000 seats will be cut by half, with a corresponding cut in expenses. The ministry has allocated Rs4,306.44 crore to implement the Act.

A senior ministry official, who didn’t wish to be named, said: “The matter is now in the courts. We’ll respond to it as and when we are asked to respond."

“Any additional seat created by the government over and above the annual permitted strength cannot have reservations imposed on them and the general category must have first bite of the apple," the Supreme Court lawyer said.

“Every additional seat that is created out of public funds must be without diluting merit... This means the number of seats available to the reserved categories cannot be increased," he added.

Sukhdeo Thorat, chairman of the University Grants Commission, who is currently in Sri Lanka, refused to comment on the petition. Thorat is also chairman of a committee set up this year by the ministry to implement OBC reservation in Central educational institutions.

Pallavi Singh contributed to this story.