Debating India

OBC RESERVATION

Centre not for reservation based on religion

Thursday 27 July 2006, by VENKATESAN*J.

Supports quota for Other Backward Classes; however, the contours of quota policy are being examined

The contours of a policy in regard to reservation were still being examined within the Central Government The Government has not formulated any policy for reservation in employment in the private sector

New Delhi: The Centre has defended in the Supreme Court its proposed policy to provide 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes in higher educational institutions. It, however, ruled out a separate quota for Muslims.

In its response to a petition filed by Ashoka Kumar Thakur challenging the 27 per cent quota for OBCs, the Centre said a policy of reservation in matters of admission in institutions under the Central Government could be implemented, in terms of the requirement of Article 15 (5) of the Constitution, by an appropriate law to be enacted by Parliament. It however said "the contours of a policy in regard to reservation were still being examined within the Central Government" and no final decision had been taken in this regard.

The Centre also denied that it was contemplating a separate quota for Muslims. It said: "A policy allowing for reservation based on religion would violate the fundamental right to equality enshrined in the Constitution. As a result, reservation for Muslims alone would be squarely discriminatory. The existing and any proposed reservation policy therefore envisage reservation for all castes/classes that are socially and educationally backward, regardless of religious faith."

The Centre also made it clear that it had not formulated any policy for reservation in employment in the private sector. Since this was not the subject matter in the writ petition, the Centre said that it was not dealing with this issue in detail.

`No addition to list’

It also denied that there was a move to bring more communities under the OBC list. It said the list of OBCs that would be eligible for the 27 per cent quota in educational institutions would be the same as those in the existing list of 27 per cent reservation in the vacancies in civil posts and services. This had already stood judicial scrutiny in the Mandal Commission judgment of the Supreme Court and there was no need or justification for a fresh list of OBCs.

The Centre said that it had constituted an Oversight Committee to suggest ways of ensuring the implementation of the reservation policy and this Committee had been given time till August 31 to submit its recommendations. On the plea to exclude the `creamy layer’ from the purview of reservation, the Centre said it had already implemented steps to ensure exclusion of the `creamy layer’ in matters of employment.

`Caste important criterion’

Justifying the policy to provide reservation, the affidavit said: "The Central Government and the various State governments have found caste, apart from other categories such as disability, to be a reasonable basis for determining who must benefit from reservation. The socially and educational backward castes are therefore universally recognised as being in dire need of reservation to undo centuries of prejudice and inequality." It said: "Secularism forms the bedrock of the Constitution. However, the principle of secularism is not violated merely because caste forms an important [perhaps the most important] criterion in formulating reservation policies."

Explaining the proposed 27 per cent quota, it said: "The Central Government would take all measures to increase the capacity of the various institutions of higher education to increase enrolment and access to higher education which is at present low compared to several other developing countries. The objective of the Government is to protect the interests of all sections of society."

Refuting the charge that increased intake would affect the quality of education, the affidavit said that necessary funds and infrastructure would be provided to institutions so that students of all sections of society were entitled to the benefits of higher education. The Centre sought the dismissal of the petition, as it was premature.

See online : The Hindu

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