Mumbaibull

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Politics of reservation

From the Eco times

IN A development that holds ominous portents for the Manmohan Singh government’s quota plans, the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre as to how a 75-year-old sample survey, covering a few villages and a small percentage of the population, could be the basis for determining backwardness of OBCs and providing 27% reservation. “What was the hurry in providing reservation without collecting authentic and determinable data? Why didn’t you (the government) wait to gather the data first and then come out with such reservation?” asked a division bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and LS Panta.
The poser from the Supreme Court was a clear indication that the top court was unconvinced about the rationale behind providing 27% reservation to OBCs. The question as to how tenable it was to base the quota largesse on a 1931 sample survey was among the many queries the division bench
raised during the hearing on a clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Central Educational Institutions (reservations in admissions) Act, 2006, as well as seeking a stay on its implementation from the coming academic year.
The non-exclusion of the creamy layer also came in for scrutiny. “How did you quantify the socially and educationally backwards among OBCs as a class and not as castes as in SCs? Unless a full determination of these indicators are done, how could this act be given effect to,” asked the bench. This is bad news for the government as the exclusion of the creamy layer from the quota ambit is stoutly opposed by the ‘social justice’ parties in the ruling alliance such as DMK, RJD, PMK and LJP.
That legal opinion was in favour of keeping the creamy layer out was evident when the court took note of the arguments made by counsels for the petitioners — Fali S Nariman, P P Rao, Vivek Tankha, M L Lahoty and Sushil Jain. The counsels said that the parliamentary standing committee at
tached to the HRD ministry too had favoured a fresh survey to determine the backwardness of various sections of the society. The proposal was, however, stonewalled by the Centre.
Additional solicitor-general Gopal Subramanium, appearing for the Centre, said that other sources were also taken into consideration, but the 1931 census was made the basis for providing such reservation. Mr Subramanium’s plea that general category students will not be affected by such reservation as the number of total seats will be increased proportionately was contested by the court. “Had it (reservation) not been implemented, the advantage due to increase in seats would have gone to the deserving,” said the court.
The judgement in the case is expected to be out in around 10 days, barely a fortnight before the UP elections. In UP, where caste decides the electoral outcome, any setback for the Centre could prove costly for the Congress. Parties like the SP are sure to blame the Centre for the failure to get judicial sanction for the quota decision.

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