Supreme Court upholds quotas for OBCs, IIMs defer admissions

April 10th, 2008 - 7:07 pm ICT by admin  

(Roundup)

New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) Affirmative action in government-run institutes of higher learning was Thursday extended to India’s other backward classes (OBCs) with the Supreme Court upholding 27 percent quota for the community, but clarifying that the creamy layer, or the elite, would be kept out. The first to be impacted by the crucial judgment were the 1,500 students getting ready for the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) in the country. Within hours of the verdict coming in, the six IIMs decided to defer admission of fresh batches and wait for the central government direction on 27 percent reservation for OBCs.

Once implemented, the new policy would take overall reservation in government-funded higher education institutions like the IIMs and Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) from the current 22.5 (for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) to 49.5 percent.

“We were going to announce the list of fresh batches within two days. But after the reservation development we are putting the exercise on hold,” IIM-Lucknow director Devi Singh told IANS.

“I had an interaction with the director of IIM-Ahmedabad and the decision to defer the admission process for the new batches is unanimous,” Devi Singh said.

The judgment was delivered by a bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, which upheld the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006, passed unanimously by parliament.

The bench, including Justices Arijit Pasayat, C.K. Thakkar, R.V. Raveendran and Dalveer Bhandari, also sought a time-bound review every five years of the effect of the law on the society.

The creamy layers among the OBCs that would not be eligible for the quota include sons and wards of serving as well as former presidents, vice president, prime ministers, ministers, chief ministers, judges of the Supreme Court and high courts, bureaucrats and commissioned military officers.

As consternation spread in campuses all over the country, Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Arjun Singh said Thursday that the verdict would not affect “any other category of students”.

The minister assured students that the percentage of seats would be increased in places like the IIT and IIM.

“It is a historic judgment. Thousands of OBC students will benefit. The government has already decided that it will not affect any other category of students,” he told reporters.

Reiterating the government stance, he said: “There won’t be any clash of interests. No one will be excluded.”

The assurances seemed to work and the protests that were expected did not materialise with students and managements saying that they would prefer to wait and watch.

Political parties welcomed the Supreme Court verdict, but some were upset that the creamy layer had been left out of the benefit.

While the Congress hailed the ruling in its entirety, its allies like the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) as well as smaller Left parties were opposed to the exclusion of the creamy layer.

However, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) favoured the exclusion of the affluent.

“The CPI-M has consistently advocated reservation of 27 percent for OBCs and excluding the affluent sections, so that the really deserving get the benefits of the quota,” the party politburo said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was also happy with the “landmark” judgment.

BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said the party welcomed it but “would like to study the judgment in detail and would give a studied response only then”.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said: “The apex court has taken a middle path. The narrow exception (for the creamy layer) is well known and is understandable.

The Congress, however, is expected to have a hard time convincing its allies like the DMK, Rashtriya Janata Dal, LJP and other parties opposed to keeping the creamy layer out of the reservation policy.

“It is a positive verdict. But while enabling the rules, the government should have a re-look at the criteria to define creamy layer,” Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja told IANS.

LJP chief and Chemicals and Fertiliser Minister Ram Vilas Paswan also expressed his reservations: “Our party wants that the creamy layer should also get the benefits till the job quota for OBCs are implemented completely.”

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