SC refuses to stay HC order on quota issue

NEW DELHI, June 11:
The Supreme Court today refused to stay the Andhra Pradesh High Court order quashing 4.5 per cent sub-quota for minorities in Central Educational Institutions like IITs and ticked off the Government for the way it has handled the “complex” and “sensitive” issue.
The apex court expressed its “unhappiness” that the Centre was blaming the High Court when it had itself failed to produce documents to support its case.
A Bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and J S Khehar was critical of the Ministry of Human Resource Development rushing to the apex court with the appeal against the May 28 order of the High Court without documents to justify the policy of carving out 4.5 per cent sub-quota within the 27 per cent OBC reservation.
Without issuing any notice, the bench asked Attorney General G E Vahanvati to produce before it the supporting documents on the issue by tomorrow and posted the matter for hearing on Wednesday.
The bench said it cannot stay the High Court order “unless the Government produces material to show a detailed exercise was undertaken to carve out the sub-quota.”
The Attorney General started submissions by taking “blame on his shoulders” for the outcome of sub-quota policy in the High Court by saying that the “argument was not the most brilliant”.
He sought some protection in view of the ongoing counselling for IITs for which 325 candidates have qualified for it under the 4.5 per cent sub quota and their career and future could be jeopardised if they are not allowed to appear for the counselling.
When Vahanvati said there was need for some protection in view of the ongoing counselling for IITs, the bench said “we will not order stay”.
“First of all you have not produced any documents in the High Court. We would have been happy, if you had done so,” the bench said.
The bench wanted to know from the senior most law officer as to what was the basis and how did the Government determine 4.5 percent sub-quota for minorities.
When the Attorney General sought to point out errors in the high court order, the bench said it was natural for the High Court to ask questions on which the Centre was complaining.
The bench, which was not in agreement with Vahanvati that the “High Court has gone completely wrong,” said “when the December 22, 2011 Office Memorandum (OM)(on 4.5 per cent sub quota) reflected nothing, the High Court will ask questions”.
“Without placing documents how can you find fault with the High Court (order),” the bench said adding that “where is the material and the High Court says nothing is produced.”
When Vahanvati said the High Court also missed the 1993 notification on the caste identification, the bench wanted to know whether it was placed before it or not.
The Attorney General said he was told that a reference was made about it but not placed.
At this the bench said, “how can you then point out error in the High Court judgement.”
The bench also questioned the Government saying “how can you (Centre) break up the 27 percent OBC quota.”
“It is a complex matter, you are carving out sub-quota from 27 percent quota. Tomorrow you will carve out further quota,” it said.
When Vahanvati said he would satisfy how 4.5 percent reservation was provided, the bench shot back, “You could have satisfied the High Court. You should have produced the material. This is a sensitive issue and it is not a matter to handle in this manner.”
“We are unhappy with the manner the Government issued the office memorandum (OM) in this sensitive matter. You should have exercised some care. We would have been happy if any statutory authorities like National Commission for Backward Classes and National Commission for Minorities would have been consulted,” the bench said.
The Union Government had moved the apex court challenging the Andhra Pradesh High Court order quashing the 4.5 per cent reservation for minorities within the 27 percent OBC quota in Central Educational Institutions such as IITs.
The Centre contended that the High Court had taken an erroneous view in striking down the provision despite the decision to provide the quota was done after an extensive survey.
The High Court on May 28 had held that the Centre acted in a “casual manner” in granting the 4.5 percent sub-quota.
It had said the Office Memorandum (OM) creating the sub-quota was based on religious grounds and not on any other intelligible consideration.
The December 22, 2011 OM for a subquota of 4.5 percent for socially and educationally backward classes of citizens belonging to minority communities out of the 27 percent reservation for OBCs in Central Educational Institutions and jobs was announced by the Centre ahead of the Assembly elections in five States including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
The very use of the words “belonging to minorities” or “for minorities” indicates that the sub-quota has been carved out only on religious lines and not on any other intelligible basis, the bench had observed while setting aside the sub-quota.
The High Court judges had said, “In fact, we must express our anguish at the rather casual manner in which the entire issue has been taken up by the central Government.”
“No evidence has been shown to us by the learned Assistant Solicitor General to justify the classification of these religious minorities as a homogeneous group or as more backward classes deserving some special treatment.
“We must therefore, hold that Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) do not form a homogeneous group but a heterogeneous group,” it had observed. (PTI)


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