SC junks plea agnst subject-wise quota in universities

The top court said the judgement of the high court was “logical. If there is no declaration of department-wise reserved posts, how will the prospective candidates apply to a particular department,” the bench asked. (Reuters File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to intervene in a 2017 Allahabad High Court judgement for reserving teaching posts after treating a university department as a unit instead of the university as a whole.

The High Court had quashed a UGC guideline for treating a central university as a unit for granting reservation for SC/ST and OBC candidates in teaching posts.

The top court's order is expected to clear the stalemate over the appointment of teachers in central universities in view of the HC judgement. The HRD Ministry even proposed a bill to nullify the impact of the verdict.

A bench of Justices U U Lalit and Indira Banerjee dismissed a special leave petition filed by the Union government as well as the UGC, challenging the validity of the judgement delivered on April 7, 2017.

On a contention that the appointments in all central universities had been stalled since the judgement, the top court declined to clarify except saying, “In view of the dismissal of the petition, nothing survived in the matter.”

Quota cut

The court rejected a plea by Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain that if a particular department was treated as an independent unit or if reservation was granted subject-wise, the number of beneficiaries would drop. 

“The underlying philosophy of reservation is to grant benefit to the maximum number of people. Judicial review has to be on the basis of some material or rational basis,” the law officer submitted.

The bench, however, said, “How can the post of professor of Anatomy be compared with a professor of Geography? Are you clubbing oranges with apples?” The court said since these teaching posts filled in different departments were not inter-changeable, the university cannot be treated as a unit for reserving posts.

Logical, says SC

The top court said the judgement of the high court was “logical. If there is no declaration of department-wise reserved posts, how will the prospective candidates apply to a particular department,” the bench asked.

The court also declined a plea by the Union government to keep the question of law open.

The high court had quashed the guidelines framed by the UGC and circulated on August 25, 2006 and on February 19, 2008.

“If the university is taken as a 'unit' for every level of teaching and applying the roster, it could result in some departments/subjects having all reserved candidates and some having only unreserved candidates. Such proposition again would be discriminatory and unreasonable. This again would be violative of Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution,” it had held.

In a matter arising out of Banaras Hindu University, the high court had directed the varsity to carry out afresh the exercise of calculating the reservation for each department/subject.

“From the guidelines framed by the UGC regarding application of reservation in teaching posts, we find that the UGC has applied it in a blanket manner. There is no consideration of why non-interchangeable posts have been clubbed for treating them as a cadre/unit,” it had said.

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SC junks plea agnst subject-wise quota in universities

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