A day after a Supreme Court Bench declined to lift the stay on implementation of law providing for OBC quota in educational institutions from the coming academic session, Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan on Monday advanced to May 8 the hearing of petitions challenging the controversial law.
In an unusual move, Attorney General Milon K Banerjee himself mentioned the Centre’s application for expediting the hearing of the case on the ground that it involved important public interest and delay in deciding the case could result into a large number of OBC students losing one academic year.
Accompanied by Solicitor General GE Vahanvati and Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, Banerjee also referred to the fact that the law was enacted unanimously by Parliament for the benefit of backward sections of the society.
Ignoring vehement opposition from the counsel representing anti-quota groups who questioned the propriety of the Government’s move, the CJI asserted that it was his prerogative to decide in what manner a case had to be heard. Advancing the hearing to May 8, the CJI asked the parties to complete the requisite formalities by that time.
It comes as a major reprieve for the Government, which has been under attack from the opposition for mishandling the case, was further criticised after a Bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat fixed third week of August for hearing, leaving no chances for implementation of the decision from this year.
Tuesday’s developments has rekindled hopes among pro-reservation groups and a section of the Government of implementation of 27 per cent OBC quota in elite educational institutions, including IIMs and IITs from the academic session 2007-08.
But the advancement of the date in itself could not help solve the Centre’s problem, as indications are that the matter will ultimately go to a Constitution Bench. In such an eventuality it would take considerable time to decide the legal issues raised in the petitions challenging the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admissions) Act, 2006 and the 93rd Constitutional Amendment that empowered the Centre and States to make substantive laws providing for OBC quota in education.
The Centre itself had submitted before Justice Pasayat’s Bench that the case involved complicated legal issues, which should be decided by a Constitution Bench. Once the matter goes to the Constitution Bench, the Centre can again seek lifting of the stay on the implementation of OBC quota ordered on March 29. But time is the crucial factor as hardly few weeks were left for commencement of the new academic session.
Earlier, senior counsel for the petitioners Mukul Rohtagi, ML Lahoty and Sushil KR Jain questioned the Government’s propriety in approaching the CJI for an early hearing without having gone to Justice Pasayat’s Bench, which had fixed third week of August for taking up the matter.
“There seems to be a calculated attempt not to go to that Bench…the matter should not get a special treatment…it has created a disturbing situation,” Rohtagi said.
Lahoty and Jain complained that pleadings were not complete in many of these cases and said that the court was being taken for a ride.