Wednesday, March 07, 2007


'1931 survey to remain basis for OBC quota?'
[ 8 Mar, 2007 0116hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

NEW DELHI: Supreme Court on Wednesday began hearing the petition challenging the just-promulgated reservations for OBCs in central educational institutions, directing sharp posers at the Centre on the basis for pegging it at 27%.

The court asked if a sample survey covering a few villages and minuscule percentage of population and based on the 1931 census, the last caste-based head count, could be the benchmark for determining backwardness of OBCs — socially, economically and educationally — for continuing with the 27% reservation to them?

This was one of the many questions that the Supreme Court asked the Centre on Wednesday during a hearing on five petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservations in Admissions) Act, 2006, as well as seeking a stay on its implementation from the academic year 2007-08.

The Bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and L S Panta also wanted to know why the Centre had not excluded the creamy layer among the other backward classes from the purview of 27% reservation in central educational institutions like IITs and IIMs. "How did you quantify the social and educational backwardness of OBCs as a class and not as castes as in SCs? Until and unless a full determination of these indicators is done, how could this Act be given effect to," the Bench asked.

When the Bench was quizzing the Centre over the fundamentals behind the quota law, counsel for petitioners — senior advocates Fali S Nariman, P P Rao, Vivek Tankha, M L Lahoty and Sushil Jain — sharpened their attack on the Centre alleging that the quota was being carved out without any ground level survey for determination of the extent of backwardness.

They said the parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD had felt that there is an urgent need for a fresh survey to determine the backwardness of various sections of society, but the Centre has already rejected this recommendation choosing to stick to the 1931 survey findings.

Fighting a lone battle for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam said the 1931 survey provides a 'rough and ready' guide for the Centre to determine the quota needed for the upliftment of the socially and educationally backward classes other than the SCs and STs.

He tried to allay petitioners' apprehension about possible discrimination of non-SC/ST and non-OBC candidates by reading out from the quota law that the 27% reservation would have no adverse impact on the number of seats available for general category students as the total seats will be suitably increased to accommodate the OBC candidates. Moreover, the universities could resort to staggered increase in the OBC quota seats as has been sought by Delhi University and Manipur University, he said.


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