Constitution bench to consider quota wrangle for backward students

May 14th, 2009 - 10:22 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 14 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday decided to examine whether it is constitutionally tenable to prohibit backward and Dalit students, competing the civil services examination on pure merit, from availing the quota benefit later to secure higher services and better state cadres.
The decision was taken by a bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, who also referred the matter to a larger constitution bench, to be set up later for a detailed scrutiny of the issue from the constitutional point of view.

The crucial constitutional issue cropped up before the apex court while adjudicating a lawsuit by the union government, challenging a last year’s ruling of the Madras High Court, which had held that backward and Dalit students, competing the civil services examination on their own merit, could not be given the benefit of reservation in allocation of services and cadres.

Last year May 19, a vacation bench of the apex court had stayed the March 2008 ruling of the high court on a petition by the union government and Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

The high court had given its ruling on a lawsuit by civil service aspirants Ramesh Ram, K. Chandrasekar and Navlendra Kumar Singh, belonging to backward and Dalit category.

They had challenged the UPSC rule on cadre and service allocation first before the Chennai bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and later before the Madras High Court.

The petitioners had challenged the Civil Service Exam (CSE) rule on service and cadre allocation, contending that backward and Dalit category students, competing the examination on merit without availing the benefit of reservation must not be given the same at a later stage during the allocation of service and cadre.

The petitioner had contended that owing to the CSE rule, the meritorious backward and Dalit category aspirants, who qualify the examination without availing the benefit of relaxed norms under reservation, eat into a good number of seats among better services and cadres, that otherwise would have gone to backward and Dalit candidates, availing the benefit of reservation.

Agreeing with the contentions of the petitioners, the Chennai bench of CAT had struck down the CSE rule in September 2007. The union government subsequently challenged the CAT’s ruling before the Madras High Court, but the high court too endorsed the CAT’s ruling.

The high court had endorsed the CAT’s ruling, saying that if a meritorious backward category student, competing the civil services examination on his own merit, is given the benefit of reservation in allocation of services and cadre, it would impinge upon the rights of the general category students.

They would also block the seats for backward category students, who have qualified, availing the benefit of the reservation and the relaxed norms of competition.

“When a post is reserved, the question of allocating the service in the reserved category to a person, who has been included in the unreserved merit list, does not at all arise.”

“It amounts to reducing the number of posts reserved for Dalit, tribal and backward category candidates and adding the same to the unreserved category, making a mockery of the entire rule of the reservation,” the high court had said in its ruling on March 20, 2008.

The union government, however, contended in its petition before the apex court that if a backward category student, qualifying the prestigious civil services on his own merit, is not given the benefit of reservation in allocation of services and cadre, it would result in an anomaly.

The anomaly would lead to the non-meritorious backward category aspirants getting better and higher services compared to those allocated to their meritorious counterparts.

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