India Business
Apex court to hear on OBC quota from May 8
Apr 24, 2007 - 8:52:43 PM

New Delhi, April 24 - The Supreme Court Tuesday decided to begin examining from May 8 the constitutional validity of the law providing for 27 percent reservation to Other Backward Classes - in higher educational institutions.

A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran advanced the hearing slated for August, after it heard government's plea to expedite the matter.

While fixing May 8 to hear the legality of the Central Educational Institutions - Act, 2006, the court directed all the parties to conclude their arguments within 10 days.

On Monday, a bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and L.S. Panta refused the government's plea to revive the quota law stayed by it. While suspending the law citing lack of updated census data for OBCs, it had decided to hear on its constitutionality in the first week of August.

But the three top law officers of the government Tuesday made a plea before the chief justice's bench to expedite hearing in the matter.

Attorney General Milon K. Banerji, Solicitor General G.E. Vahanvati and Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam appeared before the bench shortly after 2 p.m. on behalf of the government.

They said if the judiciary did not settle the matter at the earliest, an entire academic year of tens of thousands of meritorious students would be lost.

They said most higher educational institutions had even conducted their interviews after holding entrance tests for the admission and were eager to declare the list of successful candidates.

While advancing the date to examine the legality of the quota law, the chief justice dismissed the objection by petitioners' counsel, who said that the government should have mentioned the application before the same bench, which had passed the interim order on March 29 and rejected the centre's application on Monday.

But Justice Balakrishnan said, 'It is my privilege to decide which matter should be heard early. You cannot say that a particular matter cannot be heard.'

Earlier in the day, Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh said the government would appeal to the chief justice to vacate the stay on 27 percent reservation for other backward classes - in higher educational institutions.

'The same concerns and issues would be taken up before the chief justice at the earliest,' Singh told reporters. 'I do hope that the just and compassionate face of justice will emerge from the chief justice's court.'

Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan is the first member of the Dalit - community to hold the post.

Arjun Singh also said in no uncertain terms that all the Indian Institutes of Management - would have to toe the government line, refusing to buy their argument that the admission list would be out soon.

'If the government has decided on some matter, IIMs would have to follow,' the minister added.

After the apex court verdict Monday, IIM-Ahmedabad director Bakul Dholakia had said: 'There was some lack of clarity earlier. Now that it's clear, action will follow soon.

'After a consensus, we had planned to release the first admission list on April 21 but did not do so after the government communication reached us April 19,' he had added.

The human resource development ministry's letter had asked all the IIMs not to issue 'any offers of admission for the academic year 2007 until such institutions receive further communication' in this regard from the central government and warned them against any 'unilateral decision'.

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