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Last Updated: May 17, 2007 - 8:46:52 AM
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Supreme Court stays educational quota law
Mar 29, 2007 - 6:18:42 PM
The parameters provided in the Backward Classes Act had not been kept in view, they argued, adding that without supportable data the introduction of a statute, which would have the effect of disturbing social harmony, was avoidable.

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[RxPG] New Delhi, March 29 - Putting the government on the back foot, the Supreme Court Thursday stayed the implementation of the law enacted to provide for 27 percent quota for Other Backward Classes - in central higher education institutes on the basis of old census data.

A bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and Lokeshwar Singh Panta, however, said the quota for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes could be implemented by the central government in these educational institutions.

It passed this interim order on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Central Educational Institutions - Act, 2006, providing for 27 percent quota for OBCs.

The bench said: 'There is no dispute and in fact it was fairly accepted by the additional solicitor general - that there is need for periodical identification of the backward citizens and for this purpose the need for survey of the entire population on the basis of an acceptable mechanism.'

Rejecting the government's move to grant reservation on the basis of the 1931 caste-based census data, the bench said: 'What may have been relevant in the 1931 census may have some relevance but cannot be the determinative factor. Backwardness has to be based on objective factors whereas inadequacy has to factually exist.

'Though it is submitted that the number of seats available for the general category is not affected, but that is really no answer to the broader issue. If there is possibility of increase in seats in the absence of reservation it could have gone to the general category.

'If the stand of the ASG is accepted that the exercise was not intended to be undertaken immediately and the increase would be staggered over a period of three years it could not be explained as to why a firm database could not be evolved first, so that the exercise could be undertaken thereafter. By increasing the number of seats for the purpose of reservation unequals are treated as equals.'

The bench said that the much-debated concept of 'creamy layer' could not prima facie be considered to be irrelevant.

It said: 'It has also to be noted that nowhere else in the world do castes, classes or communities queue up for the sake of gaining the backward status. Nowhere else in the world is there competition to assert backwardness and then to claim we are more backward than you.'

The bench said: 'It would be desirable to keep on hold the operation of the Act so far as it relates to Section 6 thereof for the OBCs category only. We make it clear that we are not staying the operation of the statute, particularly Section 6, so far as the scheduled caste/scheduled tribe candidates are concerned.

'It would be permissible for the Union of India to initiate or continue the process, if any, for determining on a broad based foundation 'OBCs', notwithstanding the pendency of the cases before this court and without prejudice to the issues involved.'

It directed listing of the petitions for final hearing in the third week of August.

The petitioners, Youth for Equality and other student bodies, had challenged the law contending that there had never been any determination of educational backwardness on any acceptable basis.

The parameters provided in the Backward Classes Act had not been kept in view, they argued, adding that without supportable data the introduction of a statute, which would have the effect of disturbing social harmony, was avoidable.

They said the statute had lost sight of the social catastrophe it was likely to unleash and sought quashing of the impugned law.

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