The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre on a petition filed by Pan-IIM Alumni Association challenging the caste-based reservation system as "unconstitutional" on the ground that it was adversely affecting the unity and integrity of the nation.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan asked the Centre to respond to the PIL seeking quashing of the controversial Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006 providing for 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in elite institutes including IIMs and IITs from the academic year 2007-08.
The petitioners demanded setting up of a non-political expert body to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of the current system of reservation in vogue in the country since 1950.
They said that the caste-based reservation was against their right to equality, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth and equality of opportunity in public employment guaranteed under Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution respectively.
Questioning the rationale behind implementing caste-based reservation in the absence of corresponding scientific data to justify it, the Association wanted the court to enforce the concept of economic backwardness to identify the beneficiaries of reservation policy.
It was on this ground that the court had on March 29 stayed the implementation of the OBC quota in central educational institutions from the next academic year.
Five other petitions challenging the OBC quota law are coming up for hearing before a Bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat on Tuesday after the CJI advanced the date of hearing originally fixed in the third week of August.
In the petition filed through counsel Sushil Kumar Jain, the Association also raised the issue of ‘arm-twisting’ of IIMs by the Centre to put in abeyance the admission process in view of the uncertainly over OBC quota issue and sought quashing of the HRD Ministry’s communications withholding the admission process. However, the admissions for the categories other than OBC have already begun since the filing of the petition.
Questioning the criteria for determination of ‘institutes of excellence’ which are excluded from the operation of the Act, the Association sought to know "whether the IIMs which are world renowned institutions imparting Post Graduate Technical Education ought to be covered within the said definition."
The government’s action would affect the quality of the students taking admissions in various IIMs…," the Association said pointing out that from the common entrance examination conducted by the IIMs nearly 40 other institutions also take students.