Confusion persists on OBC quota for postgraduate courses

April 12th, 2008 - 6:41 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, April 12 (IANS) A day after Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Arjun Singh said that the 27 percent quota for other backward classes (OBC) in institutes of higher education was also meant for postgraduate courses, confusion persists on the matter. On Friday, after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the Supreme Court ruling on the quota, Arjun Singh told reporters that the 27 percent reservation would be implemented in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and also the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM).

The IIMs are postgraduate institutes. The minister said there was no confusion about the Supreme Court judgement on the issue.

“This has only created a confusion. If the government goes by what the HRD minister has said, it is bound to be challenged in view of the SC ruling,” said a senior University Grants Commission official requesting anonymity.

Officials said the HRD minister’s claim for OBC reservation in postgraduate courses was indefensible.

The apex court upheld the 27 percent quota for OBCs in higher education institutions on April 10, but there is confusion about whether the IITs and IIMs would come under the purview of the order.

On the controversy over graduation being regarded as a measure of being “educationally forward”, sources said that the court verdict seemed to support such an interpretation.

Of the five-member apex court bench which gave its ruling, Justices Arijit Pasayat, Dalveer Bhandari and C.K. Thakkar noted that no person, class or religion can be higher than the nation and that therefore the best and meritorious students must be selected for admission to technical institutes and medical colleges.

Justice Bhandari said in the judgement that “once a candidate graduates from an university, the candidate is educationally forward and ineligible for special benefits under Article 15(5) of the Constitution for postgraduate and any further studies thereafter.”

Keeping these remarks by the judges in mind, government officials say that it will be difficult for them to argue that the postgraduate bar on reservations is not binding.

Meanwhile, the government Saturday asked the union HRD ministry to convene a meeting of vice-chancellors and heads of universities and other higher educational institutions, including IIMs, to discuss how to implement the reservation. The UGC will make necessary arrangements for the purpose, said an official.

According to a senior HRD ministry official, the meeting is expected to take place sometime this month. Plans for smooth implementation of the quota in higher educational institutions will be drawn up at the meeting.

The government had allocated Rs.25.22 billion for infrastructure to accommodate an additional 54 percent - equally for the OBC and general category students - in higher educational institutions for the financial year 2008-09. The infrastructure required for accommodating the additional 54 percent would be implemented in a staggered manner for three years.

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