Apex court begins marathon hearing on quota issue


New Delhi : The central government told the Supreme Court Tuesday it would add 54 seats to every 100 seats in government educational institutions to accord 27 percent reservation in admission to other backward class (OBC) students.

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The submission was made by Solicitor General G.E. Vahanvati to a five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnanan, which began a marathon hearing to examine the legality of the constitutional provisions and legislation to enhance caste-based reservation in educational institutions.

Vahanvati said the government is willing to add the seats to maintain the number of seats available to the general category students and ensure that the 50 percent cap on reservation imposed by the apex court is not breached.

Elaborating on the need to add the extra seats, Vahanvati said the existing legal provisions allow for a total of 22.5 percent reservation for scheduled caste (SC) and scheduled tribe (ST) students.

He said the government also wants to reserve 27 percent seats for students belonging to Other Backward Classes (OBC) without reducing the number of seats available to general category students.

He added that after excluding 23 out of 100 seats for the SC/ST students, a total of 77 seats are left for general category students, which has to be maintained at the present level in such a way that it’s not below 50 percent of the total number of seats.

This implies that the government needs another 77 seats to be distributed among OBC and SC and ST students who would in turn get 42, 23 and 12 seats out of a total of 154 (doubling 77) respectively, under the new quota regime.

But this elaborate explanation failed cut much ice with the bench, which had asked the government counsel at the outset why the government sought revival of the quota law suspended since March 29.

The bench, which also included Justices Arijit Pasayat, C.K. Thakker, R.V. Raveendran and Dalveer Bhandari, asked the central government to apprise it of exactly how many seats have been increased by the government till now in various educational institutions and what infrastructure has been added to sustain their increased intake.

The government offer to increase the number of seats failed to impress the anti-reservation lobby.

Vehemently opposing the government’s reply, counsel Harish Salve, arguing for one of the petitioners opposed to reservation, said that the law violated the right to equality.

Opposing the government’s unwillingness to exclude the rich and the “creamy layers” amongst the OBC from the provisions of the reservation, Salve said the government would be spending more money and creating more opportunities for a miniscule segment of rich people among the OBC category under the new quota regime.

The bench continued its hearing on the quota issue for over four hours before adjourning it for Wednesday. The bench is presently engaged in examining the legality of the Constitution (93rd Amendment) Act and the entailing legislation, the Central Educational Institution (Reservation in Admissions) Act, 2006, which provides for 27 percent reservation to centrally funded educational institutions.

Salve also opposed the law arguing that it seeks to provide reservation in all the educational institutions that it controls directly or indirectly.

This way the government would seek reservation for OBC students even in an institution to which it gives a computer or pays the salary of even one teacher, argued Salve.