New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a law which provides for 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in educational institutions supported by the Central government.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan ruled that the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006, does not violate the basic structure of the Constitution.
The court ruled the 93rd Constitutional Amendment Act, which was the basis of the law providing 27 per cent reservation in aided institutions, didn’t violate the basic structure of the Constitution.
However, the court also ruled that creamy layer among the OBCs cannot get the benefit of quota. On quota in private un-aided institutions, four judges left the issue open and one judge ruled it would violate of the basic structure of the Constitution.
The 500-page verdict came on a petition by anti-quota activists challenging the Act. They had vehemently opposed government's move saying caste cannot be the starting point for identifying backward classes.
The court’s interim order of March 29, 2007, staying the implementation of the quota has now been lifted after Thursday’s order.
The court held that the delegation of power to the Centre to determine OBCs is valid.
The court also added that reservation cannot be in perpetuity, and should be revised at periodic intervals. The court also said the government can decide when to implement the quota this year itself.
Following the judgement 49. 5 percent of the seats in higher educational institutes would be reserved. The Schedule Castes (SCs) and Schedule Tribes (STs) enjoy a 22.5 per cent reservation. While the SCs have 15 per cent reservation, for the STs it is 7.5 per cent.
Reacting to the judgement, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, "We wanted the reservation and are happy about it but the problem is that government had promised that within three years it will create extra seats so that nobody suffers."
Youth for Equality Founder Member Anirudh Lochan said that the students are really angry all over the country and they were planning their next step.
Youth for Equality was in the forefront of anti-reservation protests across the country after the United Progressive Alliance Government decided to implement the quota for OBCs.
What is the quota row
It is the controversial proposal to increase reservation for other backward classes in higher education institutes.
The decision will impact 20 central universities, the IITs, IIMs and colleges supported by the Government. The Government accepting the Mandal Commission’s suggestion of 27 per cent reservation for backward classes in Government educational institutions and the quota increase is a part of this.
The new policy would take the overall reservation in the Government-funded higher education institutions from the current 22.5 (for SC and ST students) to 49.5 per cent.
In 2006, Human Resource Development Minister, Arjun Singh had asked state governments to frame laws under the 104th amendment of the Indian Constitution.
The amendment gives a right to all states to take adequate steps to ensure the upliftment of the socially and economically backward classes and essentially means that the under-privileged should get a chance to secure admission in private institutes.
For the colleges, this could mean a fall in the revenue but for the students who fall into the general category this could mean studying longer hours to be a part of the cream of the Indian student population.
The trend of reservations started with the appointment of the Mandal Commission in 1980, which had proposed that 27 per cent of university admissions be reserved for backward and disadvantaged castes.
Private institutes, including IIT and IIM already provide reservations for Scheduled Castes (15 per cent) and Scheduled Tribes (7.5 per cent), as mandated by the Constitution.
The Court had in March ruled that the 1931 census could not be a determinative factor for identifying the OBCs for the purpose of providing reservation.
Various organisations had challenged the Centre's decision to implement the quota, claiming that there was no relevant data on the number of OBCs in the country.
The apex court reprimanded the Centre, saying that the Centre should stay away from dividing the society on caste basis and should behave in a more responsible way.
The Supreme Court on April 23, 2007 refused to vacate the stay on 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in elite educational institutions like IIMs and IITs.
The Centre wanted a modification on the Supreme Court's March 29 order staying the reservation for OBCs, but the apex court refused the same making it clear by saying that the Centre is “first trying to play the game and then framing the rules”.
April 2007 - SC versus Centre
The Supreme Court said that the creamy layer does not deserve any reservation.
SC wanted to know from the Centre why there should be reservation in institutes of super speciality.
The SC said that the 27 per cent additional seats - created so that no inconvenience should be caused to the General Category - were created by the revenue generated by all the citizens of the country. Under Article 29, all the citizens have a right to this investment.
The Supreme Court had in August, rejected the Centre's petition seeking vacation of its interim order staying the implementation of 27 per cent quota for OBCs in elite educational institutions.
A five-judge Constitution Bench had ruled that the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admissions) Act 2006 cannot be implemented until the main petitions challenging the validity of the Act are decided upon.
This was the second time in two months that the apex court refused to vacate quota stay. The reasons that the court gave for not vacating the quota stay were:
In a last ditch effor to freeze on the OBC quota, the Government had even said it was willing to keep the 'creamy layer' out of the purview of the act. However, the SC chose not to vacate the stay and therefore quota was not implemented in the last academic year.
In November 2007, 15 years after the implementation of the Mandal Commission, an exercise was initiated in the Government to find out if those who had already benefited from OBC reservations should be excluded from benefits of regular reservations.
Queries by the apex court had triggered off another exercise by the Centre aimed to conduct a review of OBC quotas by the Ministry of Social Justice, which would then exclude those castes that had already benefited from reservations.