The Supreme Court on Tuesday began examining if Dalit and backward category students competing in the civil services examination without availing quota benefits should be allowed to use reservation to secure higher services and better cadre.
A five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, began examination of the crucial issue relating to reservation in civil services for candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the socially and educationally backward sections of society on a bunch of lawsuits, including one by the union government.
The union government's lawsuit challenged a March 2008 ruling of the Madras High Court which held that Dalit and backward category students, competing on merit, cannot be given the benefit of reservation for allocation of higher service and better cadre in the civil services.
The union government approached the apex court on May 17 last year, challenging the high court ruling. The apex court suspended the ruling two days later.
The apex court had decided on May 14 this year to refer the matter to a five-judge constitution bench for examination.
The high court had held that if a meritorious Dalit or backward category student is allowed to avail the quota benefits during the stage of allocation of services and cadre, it would impinge upon the rights of other such students who were able to clear the examination using the reservation benefits.
The high court pointed out that in that case Dalit and backward category students competing on the basis of reservation would be deprived of better cadre and services.
Appearing for the union government, Solicitor General Gopal Subramanian however, contended that if a backward category student qualifying the prestigious civil services on his own merit is not given the benefit of reservation in allocation of services and cadre it would result in an anomaly.
The anomaly would lead to non-meritorious backward category aspirants getting better and higher services compared to their meritorious counterparts.
"It would be anomalous that the government has to take a stand on the matter dealing with two persons of the same class," said the law officer, adding that "if you prefer people with lower marks to those with higher marks in the same class, the efficiency in administration, as contemplated under Article 335, would be compromised."
But, the bench, which also included Justice SH Kapadia, Justice RV Raveendran, Justice BS Reddy and Justice P Satahsivam, did not appear to appreciate the idea of the same person refusing and availing quota benefits in different circumstances.