The Supreme Court on Tuesday decided to begin examining from May 8 the constitutional validity of the law providing for 27 per cent reservation to backward class students in higher educational institutions.
A bench of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice RV Raveendran advanced the hearing slated for August, acceding to the government's plea to hear the matter at the earliest.
While fixing May 8 to hear the legality of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admissions) Act, 2006, the court directs all the parties to conclude their respective arguments within 10 days.
On Monday, a bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and LS Panta refused the government's plea to revive the quota law stayed by it. While suspending the law citing lack of updated census data for other backward classes (OBCs), it had decided to hear on its constitutionality in the first week of August.
But the three top law officers of the government on Tuesday made a fervent plea before the chief justice's bench to expedite hearing on the constitutionality and legality of the legislation.
Attorney General Milon K Banerji, Solicitor General GE Vahanvati and Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam appeared before the bench shortly after 2 pm on behalf of the government.
They said if the judiciary did not settle the matter at the earliest, an entire academic year of tens of thousands of meritorious students would be lost.
They said most higher educational institutions had even conducted their interviews after holding entrance tests for the admission and were eager to declare the list for successful candidates.
Earlier in the day, Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh said the government would appeal to the chief justice to vacate the stay on 27 per cent reservation for other backward classes (OBCs) in higher educational institutions.
"The same concerns and issues would be taken up before the chief justice at the earliest," Singh told reporters. "I do hope that the just and compassionate face of justice will emerge from the chief justice's court."
The new chief justice, KG Balakrishnan, is the first Dalit to hold the post in India.
Arjun Singh also said in no uncertain terms that all the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) would have to toe the government line, refusing to buy their argument that the admission list would be out soon.
"If the government has decided on some matter, IIMs would have to follow," the minister added.
After the apex court verdict on Monday, IIM-Ahmedabad director Bakul Dholakia had said: "There was some lack of clarity earlier. Now that it's clear, action will follow soon.
"After a consensus, we had planned to release the first admission list on April 21 but did not do so after the government communication reached us on April 19," he had added.
The human resource development ministry's letter had asked all the IIMs not to issue "any offers of admission for the academic year 2007 until such institutions receive further communication" in this regard from the central government and warned them against any "unilateral decision".