J. Venkatesan

Union Government also rules out a separate quota for Muslims

  • "Religion-based quota would violate fundamental right to equality"
  • "No move to expand the OBC list"

    NEW DELHI: The Centre has told the Supreme Court that it has not taken any final policy decision to provide a 27 per cent quota for Other Backward Classes in higher educational institutions.

    It has also 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 the OBCs, the Centre said: "There is as yet no final decision in regard to a policy of reservation in matters of admission in institutions under the Central Government and that any such decision can be implemented, in terms of the requirement of Article 15 (5), only by an appropriate law to be enacted by Parliament."

    Denying that it was contemplating a separate quota for Muslims, the Centre 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 envisages reservation for all castes/classes that are socially and educationally backward, regardless of religious of religious faith."

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

    Justifying the policy to provide reservation, the affidavit said: "The Centre and 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."

    "Secularism," it added, "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."

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

    Refuting the charge that an increase in intake would affect the quality of education, the affidavit said funds and infrastructure would be provided to the institutions so that students of all sections were entitled to the benefits of higher education.

    Meanwhile, the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe Medical Association moved an application seeking intervention in the case stating the July 17 court order, by which doctors protesting against the OBC quota were ensured salary for their period of strike, encouraged the doctors to resort to such action.

    Prashant Bhushan, counsel for the applicant, said the order directing payment of salary for the strike period had sent wrong signals.

    However, the Bench told him that the order was passed only because of an assurance given by the Government. It directed listing of the application for hearing along with the main matter.

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