UPA government’s flagship law for 27 percent quotas for OBC students upheld

April 10th, 2008 - 8:17 pm ICT by admin  

(Second Lead)

New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday upheld the law providing 27 percent quota for other backward classes (OBCs) students in government-run institutes of higher learning but said the ‘creamy layer’ or the elite would be kept out. While upholding the constitutional validity of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government’s flagship law, a five-judge constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan ruled that students belonging to the creamy layer among the other backward classes (OBCs) would not be eligible for the quota.

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.

In its unanimous judgement running into 500 pages, the bench upheld the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006 that provides for 27 percent quota to OBC students in higher educational institutions like the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).

The bench also upheld the validity of the Constitutional (93rd Amendment) Act, 2005 that enables central and state governments to enact laws to provide for reservation in higher educational institutions.

The court, however, left open the question of whether the 93rd constitutional amendment act also enables governments to make a law providing for reservation to OBC students in private unaided educational institutions.

The bench delivered its ruling in four separate, but largely concurring, judgements with one each written by Chief Justice Balakrishnan, Justice Raveendran and Justice Bhandari and yet another jointly written by Justice Pasayat and Justice Thakkar.

Upholding the constitutional validity of the law, Chief Justice Blakrishnan wrote: “The Constitution (Ninety-Third Amendment) Act, 2005 does not violate the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution so far as it relates to the state-maintained institutions and aided educational institutions.”

All the judges, in their rulings, sought exclusion of elites or the `creamy layers’ from the benefits of reservation in higher educational institutions.

“Creamy layer is to be excluded from socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs). The identification of SEBCs will not be complete and without the exclusion of creamy layer such identification may not be constitutionally valid.”

In a separate judgement, Justice Bhandari held that the part of the constitutional amendment act that enables the government to make a law for reservation in private educational institutions is illegal and violates the basic structure of the constitution.

Posing a question to himself as to whether the 93rd amendment of the Constitution violates the “basic structure” of the Constitution, Justice Bhandari said: “It does.”

“Imposing reservation on unaided institutions violates the Basic Structure by stripping citizens of their fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g) to carry on an occupation. T.M.A. Pai and Inamdar affirmed that the establishment and running of an educational institution falls under the right to an occupation,” he added.

The other judges on the bench, however, left the question open saying that this part would be open to challenge at subsequent time.

“The question whether the Constitution (93rd Amendment) Act, 2005 would be constitutionally valid or not, so far as private unaided educational institutions are concerned, is left open to be decided in an appropriate case,” wrote the chief justice and three other judges.

The bench specified that the creamy layer would mean what the apex court had defined in its 1993 ruling upholding the constitutional validity of the Mandal Commission report. It said the “creamy layer” among OBC students would also be decided as per the criteria fixed by the government in its official order on Sep 8, 1993.

The creamy layers among backward classes 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.

With the court endorsing the legality of the law, the IIMs and IITs would be able to implement the quota regime from the academic session 2008-09 itself.

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