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The Supreme Court has upheld the 27% quota for Other Backward Castes in centrallyfunded educational institutions, but ruled that the scheme can be rolled out only after excluding the creamy layer.

However, confusion remains over whether quotas would apply to postgraduate courses, such as those at IIMs. The anti-quota side interpreted the judgment as a “no” from the court for OBC quota in institutions such as IIMs and other postgraduate courses. Late in the evening, government leaders told the media that they will seek clarifications from the court on the matter.

The five-member bench of the Supreme Court delivered four judgments on a number of petitions challenging OBC quotas. One judgment, by Justice Dalveer Bhandari, says, “Once a candidate graduates from a university, the said candidate is educationally forward and is ineligible for special benefits ... for postgraduate and any further studies thereafter.”

This view, however, is not endorsed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan in his judgment. The third judgment by Justices Pasayat and Thakker says graduation should be used as a criterion to judge the backwardness or otherwise of a community.

The court, which brought in the educational criterion along with social and economic backwardness for determining creamy layer, dealt a blow to the well-off and educationally forward in the OBCs. The Centre, however, maintained that the OBC quota will be implemented from this year and a notification in this regard will be issued soon.

Already, the Common Admission Test (CAT) results for IIMs are being held back for accommodating OBC candidates. As the implementation would be staggered for existing institutions, IIMs and IITs are prepared for the intake.

The Budget, incidentally, had allocated Rs 2,500 crore for capacity building. The government said funds will not come in the way of the quota rollout.

The judgment by the five-member bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan is expected to go a long way in empowering the most backward castes (MBCs). The politically-powerful OBCs may be unhappy with the judgement as it bodes well for the MBCs.

The apex court has asked the government to review the OBC list every five years, besides keeping the creamy layer out. This would mean castes that have benefited from quotas would be out of the reservation list eventually.

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