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The Supreme Court has said that the seats remaining vacant after the implementation of 27% OBC quota in central educational institutions, including IITs and IIMs, will go to the general category candidates. The court further said that it would be desirable not to have a wide difference in cut-off marks between the reserved and general categories of students for the purposes of admission.

A five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, Justice Arijit Pasayat, Justice C K Thakker, Justice R V Raveendran and Justice Dalveer Bhandari said that there was no confusion on both the issues.

The anti-quota petitioners had moved the court saying that after the implementation of the law — the Central Educational Institution (Reservation in admission) Act 2006 — seats have remained vacant and there was a confusion over it.

Senior advocate K K Venugopal appearing for anti-quota petitioners referred to the two judgements, one written by Justices Arijit Pasayat and C K Thakker and another by Justice Dalveer Bhandari, to buttress the stand that the seats added in the 27 per cent OBC quota which remained vacant after implementation of the Act cannot go waste.

“What is the confusion. It was clarified in the judgement itself that the seats remaining vacant will go to the General Category,” Justice Pasayat said.
“Both the judgements clearly said that such vacant seats will go to the general category,” added Justice Bhandari.

At the outset when Venugopal said there was a need for clarification on the aspect of vacant seats, Justice Pasayat said, “This (wasting of seats) cannot be allowed. It will go back to the general category”.

“The reservation was not for ensuring that even if they (OBC) are not there, it will not go to others,” Pasayat said adding that “it is very clear. The intention was that don’t leave the seats vacant. The intention was to give better education.”

The anti-quota petitioners claimed that 432 seats remained vacant and if the Ministry of Human Resource was not adhering to the apex court judgement then it was inviting contempt.

“Despite the fact that the judgment of April 10, 2008 makes it clear that the vacant seats will revert to the general category, the confused position manifested by the Directors of the institutions was further enhanced with the Ministry of Human Resource Development refusing to “de-reserve” the seats, and instead directing that the cut-offs be lowered so that more reserved category students be accommodated”, said anti-quota petitioners relying on media reports.

It quoted a report stating that permission needed to be sought from the government to “de-reserve” the vacant seats to have them filled by students of the general category. However, Solicitor General G E Vahanvati said he will get back to the court after seeking instructions from the government whether seats are vacant or not.The bench posted the matter for further hearing on September 29.

The issue of cut-off marks also came up for discussion during the brief hearing in which Venugopal said merit should not be totally sacrificed.

He said while Justice Pasayat and Thakker were of the view that the difference in cut-off marks between the two category cannot be more than five marks while Justice Bhandari had extended it to 10 marks. Both the judgements clearly stated that “don’t deviate from merit”, the senior advocate said.

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