Supreme Court stays quotas for OBCs in IITs, IIMs

New Delhi, Mar 29 | Updated: Mar 30 2007, 06:13am hrs
The Centres controversial move to implement 27% reservation for other backward classes (OBCs) in Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other central universities was halted in its tracks on Thursday with the Supreme Court staying legislation passed by Parliament in December 2006.

In staying the operability of the quota regime, the apex court asked the government to come out with a definitive database of OBCs, pointing out that data from the 1931 census could not be the determinative factor. The stay came as a serious setback to the entire political class and other pro-reservationists.

Stung by the adverse judgement, which once again throws into stark relief the possibility of further judiciary-legislative confrontation, government sources said the next step would be taken only after the law ministry had examined the judgement.

Conceding that admissions to institutions would be affected in the current session, HRD minister Arjun Singh said the government would go by the constitutional provisions. Since a quota for OBCs enjoys a broad political consensus, the Centre is likely to hold consultations with all parties.

Limited Options

Seek a review of the court decision to stay quota legislation of Dec 2006
Accept the SC suggestion to identify a broadbased foundation for OBC data
Disregard the apex court and go ahead with 27% OBC reservation.

Options before the government, of course, are limited. One, it can seek a review of the decision. Two, it could accept the courts suggestion to identify a broad-based foundation for OBC data and then implement it. Though unlikely, it could also disregard the apex court and implement the decision anyway.

First, though, the Centre will have to figure out what to do with the over Rs 1,500 crore it has already given to IITs and central universities. While the seven IITs were given a grant of Rs 988 crore to increase seats by 54%, 18 central universities had been given Rs 576 crore.

While rejecting OBC quotas, the Supreme Court, however, clarified that reservation for SCs and STs would not be withheld. Disagreeing with the Centres mode of selecting data of OBCs, the bench comprising Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice LS Panta said, What may have been relevant in the 1931 census may have some relevance but cannot be the determinative factor. The constitutional validity of the legislation would be examined on merit in late August.