The Supreme Court on Monday clarified that if seats reserved for other backward class (OBCs) students in central educational institutions remained vacant for want of eligible candidates, such seats must be allotted to general category candidates.
A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan, which upheld the OBC quota law on April 10, said such vacant seats, out of the 27 per cent reserved for OBC students, couldn’t be carried forward to the next academic year.
“Our judgment clearly said don’t allow seats to be vacant. That will be counter-productive… the anxiety was to see that seats should not go waste,” Justice Arijit Pasayat, a member of the bench, said, adjourning the matter to October 14. The court has yet to pass any formal orders.
The observation came after Solicitor General GE Vahanvati referred to the judgment of Justice Dalveer Bhandari, another member of the bench. Vahanvati said that if nine per cent seats were increased every year to give effect to the 27 per cent OBC quota, only vacant seats accumulated at the end of the third year would be filled by the general category.
But the court didn’t agree with the Centre’s stand that unfilled OBC seats should be accumulated for three years before being allotted to general students, if they ultimately remained vacant. The court wondered why the government wanted to wait three years to fill the seats.
The bench was hearing an application by Professor PV Indersen of IIT-Chennai seeking clarifications in the Constitution bench judgment. He had alleged that several seats remained vacant as the HRD Ministry did not follow the SC ruling.
Senior counsel KK Venugopal pointed out on behalf of anti-quota petitioners that the issue of cut-off marks had been settled by the bench and institutions had accepted that difference in cut-off for OBC and general category students will be not more than five to 10 marks.
According to the Centre’s affidavit, Jawaharlal Nehru University has filled 54 vacant OBC seats with general category candidates while 29 such seats are vacant. Out of the 654 seats available for OBCs in 13 IITs, only 20 remain vacant but the cut-off (172 for both general and OBC) wasn’t diluted.