The Supreme Court on Tuesday fixed July 31 to hear the government's fresh plea for the revival of a law for the reservation for other backward classes (OBC) students in centrally funded higher educational institutions.
Denying any immediate relief to the government on its Monday's application for reviving the quota law, a bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan also decided to take a call on formation of a constitution bench to examine the legality of the suspended quota law.
The bench, which also had Justices RV Raveendran and Dalveer Bhandari on it, said the matter related to the quota issue would be "listed for direction for placing it before a constitution bench next week."
But with the court likely to refer the entire issue to a constitution bench next week, the government stood a fair chance of having the hearing on its latest plea next week.
As the government's petition for the revival of the quota law, suspended by the court on March 29, came up for hearing, the court initially suggested that it be listed for hearing within next eight weeks.
This was stoutly opposed by Solicitor General GE Vahanvati, who said the government's entire purpose would be defeated in moving the court as the OBC students would not be able to avail reservation in the academic session 2007-08 owing to the stay on the law.
The bench then suggested its listing on July 31, while advocate Rajeev Dhawan, appearing for various petitioners challenging the legality of the law, suggested that the entire issue be listed for hearing by a constitutional bench at the earliest.
The bench acceded to his request and said that it would take its call on forming a constitution bench next week. This partly satisfied Vahanvati as well, since the government's petition would be heard earlier this way.
Arguing before the court to revive the suspended quota law, Vahnavati earlier said the government has approached the court with fresh grounds to seek the revision of its March 29 order.
Vahanvati pointed out that apex court, while hearing some petitions against the quota laws of Tamil Nadu, had asked the state to increase the seats for the general category students in its medical colleges in appropriate proportion.
He said the court had given this order after it found that the state reserved up to 69 per cent seats for various categories of underprivileged students - 19 per cent over and above the 50 per cent limit fixed by the court.
He recalled that the court had asked Tamil Nadu to increase the number of seats for general category students after it found that the students figuring high in the merit lists of the medical entrance examination in the state were not able to secure admission in the colleges of their choice with their preferred courses.
Vahanvati added that in May this year, the court endorsed its 1994 order for increasing the general category seats in Tamil Nadu.
He argued that just as the court permitted an increase in the number of seats for general category students in Tamil Nadu to implement the quota policy, it should allow the central government to do the same as per the provisions of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006.