Supreme Court slams Centre over sub-quota

The Supreme Court on Monday questioned the rationale and basis for the Centre’s move in carving out a sub-quota of 4.5 per cent for religious minorities within the 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in central educational institutions and jobs. 

A bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and J S Khehar expressed its displeasure over the Centre’s decision, and refused to stay the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s order quashing the Centre’s office memorandum providing such reservation for minorities.

The court asked Attorney General G E Vahanvati to submit documents in support of the Centre’s decision, by Tuesday.

“What is the basis for carving out 4.5 per cent sub-quota for minorities? How do you identify the groups,” the court queried, adding, “It is a very sensitive issue. We are very unhappy with the manner in which the government issued the office memorandum.”
The Centre issued the office memorandum on December 22, providing for a sub-quota for religious minorities ahead of the assembly elections in five states.

Vahanvati sought a stay on the High Court order of May 28 in view of the on-going counselling for admission to the premier IITs in which as many as 325 candidates have qualified in the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) under the sub-quota facility and their future would be jeopardised by the HC order.

The bench, however, was unmoved. “We are not going to tinker with the process. This 27 per cent reservation is going on for decades,” the court said.

The bench also pointed out that the Centre had not produced any documents to buttress its stand on sub-quota before the High Court.

When Vahanvati tried to pick holes in the HC’s order saying that it missed the 1993 notification of caste identification, the apex court countered, “Did you produce that document before the High Court?”

The court also wanted the Attorney General to confirm if the matter was referred to the National Commission for Minorities before arriving at the figure. “We would have been happy if any statutory authorities like National Commission for Backward Classes and National Commission for Minorities had been consulted,” the court said, adding, “It is a very complex issue. Today, you are carving out 4.5 per cent, tomorrow you can carve out another 4.5 per cent without any basis.”

The bench posted the matter for further hearing to Wednesday. In its special leave petition, the Union government submitted that the HC had taken an “erroneous view” in quashing the sub-quota for minorities. A bench of AP HC’s Chief Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Sanjay Kumar had on May 28 set aside the  sub-quota of 4.5 per cent out of the 27 per cent OBC quota.
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