Sunday, May 18, 2008

OBC quotas-uncertainty continues

I was away over the past week. I found I couldn't escape the OBC quota row even while away from the campus.

The SC has stayed the Calcutta High Court's own stay on the operation of OBC quotas in IIM- Calcutta. The Hindu's report provided more detail than most others:

the Chief Justice said: “It is strange that such an order has been passed by the Calcutta High Court. Once the Act has been upheld by us where is the question of stay? We don’t think the [Calcutta] High Court can sit over the judgment of this court.”

When counsel for respondents — K.K. Venugopal, Harish Salve, P.P. Rao and Rajeev Dhavan — opposed the stay on the Calcutta High Court order, the Chief Justice said: “Your argument is very strange. If you feel our judgment is being violated, you file a contempt [against the Centre]. We can’t allow the stay order to operate.”

The way I understood the various petitions filed in the High Courts, the principle of OBC quotas in central educational institutions is not being questioned. The issue now is whether the HRD ministry's directive on this subject is in conformity with the letter and spirit of the SC judgement in the case.

The CJ's remarks suggest that the remedy, in the event that the HRD ministry directive is in any way violative of the judgement, is to file a contempt petition against the government, not to seek a stay of OBC quotas in IIMs and elsewhere.

But I am at a loss to understand what would happen if the government were to be found guilty of contempt- say, because some of the admissions made were not in strict confirmity with the SC's observations and guidelines on the 'creamy layer'. The present SC order says that admissions made wil be 'provisional' subject to final disposal of the present bunch of petitions filed in various High Courts ( a point missed in the Hindu story).

What happens if some of the admissions made in accordance with Ministry's directive are seen to be violative of the SC judgement in the OBC quota case? Will the concerned students have to withdraw? Suppose this happens several months after they have joined one of the central educational institutions?

There are more fundamental issues that have been raised. One is whether the proportion of 27% would be valid if the OBC population after excluding the creamy layer turned out to be lower than this. The appropriateness of the figure of 27% was one of the issues raised when the SC heard the petitions against the central educational institutions' Act. The SC then took the view that since Parliament had accepted this figure, there must be some basis for it.

No comments: