But creamy layer among OBCs to be excluded
Decision to exclude minority institutions from Article 15(5) upheld
Applicability of 93rd Amendment to private unaided institutions not considered
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the law enacted by the Centre in 2006 providing a quota of 27 per cent for candidates belonging to the Other Backward Classes in Central higher educational institutions. But it directed the government to exclude the ‘creamy layer’ among the OBCs while implementing the law. The institutions will include the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management.
A five-Judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan thus paved the way to giving effect to the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006, from the academic year 2008-2009. The unanimous verdict runs to over 500 pages.
The Bench, that included Justices Arijit Pasayat, C.K. Thakker, R.V. Raveendran and Dalveer Bhandari, also held as valid the 93rd Constitution Amendment that inserted Article 15(5) in the Constitution to enable the Centre and the States to enact laws concerning quotas.
While the CJI wrote the main judgment, Mr. Justice Pasayat (for himself and Mr. Justice Thakker), Mr. Justice Raveendran and Mr. Justice Bhandari wrote separate but concurring judgments.
Mr. Justice Bhandari differed with the majority on a short point of the applicability of the 93rd Amendment to private unaided educational institutions. The other judges declined to go into the issue, stating that no private educational institution had filed a petition challenging the Amendment Act.
The Bench was disposing of a batch of petitions questioning the 2006 quota law and the 93rd Amendment. In March 2007, the court, by an interim order, restrained the Centre from implementing the law for 2007-08. This it did saying the 1931 census data could not be the basis for providing reservation.
The CJI said: “The 93rd Amendment Act does not violate the basic structure of the Constitution so far as it relates to State maintained institutions and aided educational institutions. Article 15(5) of the Constitution is constitutionally valid and Articles 15(4) and 15(5) are not mutually contradictory.”
He agreed with the decision to exclude the minority institutions from Article 15(5), and said: “It does not violate Article 14 as minority educational institutions are a separate class and their rights are protected by other constitutional provisions.”
The CJI said: “Reservation is one of the many tools that are used to preserve and promote the essence of equality, so that disadvantaged groups can be brought to the forefront of civil life. It is also the duty of the State to promote positive measures to remove barriers of inequality and enable diverse communities to enjoy the freedoms and share the benefits guaranteed by the Constitution.”
He added: “In the context of education, any measure that promotes the sharing of knowledge, information and ideas and encourages and improves learning among India’s vastly diverse classes deserves encouragement. To cope with the modern world and its complexities and turbulent problems, education is a must and it cannot remain cloistered for the benefit of a privileged few. Reservations provide that extra advantage to those persons who, without such support, can forever only dream of university education without ever being able to realise it. This advantage is necessary.”
He, however, made it clear that the creamy layer should be excluded from the socially and educationally backward classes. The creamy layer principle would not apply as far as the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes are concerned.
The 2006 Act cannot be held invalid on the ground that no time-limit had been prescribed for reservations, it said.
“The quantum of 27 per cent reservation is not illegal and Parliament must be deemed to have taken into consideration all relevant circumstances when fixing the 27 per cent reservation.”
However, the court directed that a review of the lists of backward classes be made after five years.
There had been no excessive delegation of power to the Central government with respect to the determination of OBCs, the court said.