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UNCERTAINTY looms large over implementation of the law providing 27% quota for OBCs in elite educational institutions from the current academic year as the Supreme Court on May 9, reserved its order on the government plea seeking referring the matter to a Constitution Bench. The apex court, while reserving its verdict, said that important questions are involved in the matter.

A bench comprising Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice L S Panta pointed out four important issues that required to be considered. First, whether there should be reservation at all. Second, whether the basis of reservation should be caste or economic. Third, if reservation is permissible, then for how long? Fourth, issue of creamy layer for reservation in the educational institutions.

The court also observed that the question of Fundamental Rights was involved in the issue. Can anybody be deprived of the Fundamental Right to education guaranteed under Article 21 A of the constitution, asked the court.

At this point, senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for an antiquota petitioner, said, “the government has the funds to increase seats in IIMs and IITs, but there is no fund to look into the aspect of elementary education which is compulsory for a citizen till the age of 14.”

The court granted eight weeks for completing the pleadings in the matter which are connected to the petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of 93rd Constitution (Amendment) Act and the Central Educational Institution (Reservation in Admission) Act 2006, providing reservations in centrally funded educational institutions including IIMs and IITs.

The anti-quota petitioners, through their counsels, said that affirmative action cannot be by way of reservation and that too, when it was based on castes. Perusing the issues of parties, the court said since there was overlapping of points on the questions formulated by the contesting parties, solicitor-general and Salve will sit together to make a compilation of them and place it before the court.

The court observed that there was no dispute that the questions involved are important and of far reaching consequences. It said various issues have been formulated by the counsels appearing in the matter and it was desirable to consider them before referring to a larger bench.

Since all states have been made party in the petition, it would not allow individuals and organisations to be impleaded as parties, the court said. However, the court made it clear that recognised political parties like Lalu Prasad’s RJD will be heard.

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