Legal Correspondent

“It’s a constitutional promise that has been redeemed”

New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday asserted in the Supreme Court that the law providing for 27 per cent reservation to other backward classes (OBCs) in higher educational institutions did not violate the basic structure of the Constitution.

Appearing for the Centre, the former Attorney-General and senior counsel, K. Parasaran, submitted before a five-Judge Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, that the law was only a constitutional promise that had been redeemed.

The Bench –— comprising, besides the Chief Justice, Justices Arijit Pasayat, C.K. Thakker, R.V. Raveendran and Dalveer Bhandari –— is hearing petitions challenging the 93rd Amendment and the quota law enacted by virtue of this amendment.

Mr. Parasaran said that the aim of any civilised society should be to secure dignity to every individual and there could not be dignity if his status was not made equal. He said the law, to the extent that it provided reasonable restriction to the available seats in a college or educational institution, would not be violative of the basic structure doctrine because such a restriction would come within the purview of ‘reasonable restriction’ under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution.

On the petitioners’ contention that minorities had been excluded from the purview of the quota law, Mr. Parasaran said “minorities had to be excluded to protect the secular character of our country. Otherwise, it will become a theocratic state.”

He said the provisions of the quota law would stand the test of constitutionality and the increase of seats would ensure that the existing seats were not affected and it would in fact help the non-backward classes. He said the identification of the backward classes was only the manner of exercise of the process and would not affect the validity of the law.

Mr. Parasaran said one could not wait for the identification of the OBCs as in view of the complexity of the problem it might take at least 30 years for proper identification. He, however, maintained that the government had identified the OBCs and only the notification had not been issued in view of the interim stay order (on implementation of the quota law) passed by the apex court.

On the question of exclusion of creamy layer from among the OBCs, SCs and STs, Mr. Parasaran, quoting the Mandal case judgment, said: “Once a class is identified as a backward class, no further identification or classification can be made on the basis of economic criterion and it is irrelevant.” Arguments will continue on October 10.

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