The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on the Centre’s plea for referring to a Constitution Bench the petitions challenging the 93rd Constitutional amendment and the law providing for 27 per cent quota for OBCs in elite institutes like IIMs, IITs and AIIMS.
A Bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat reserved its orders on this issue after hearing the counsel for anti-quota petitioners and Solicitor General G E Vahanvati, who submitted their formulations of the constitutional issues involved in the case.
Observing that there was no dispute that the questions involved were important and of far reaching consequences, the Bench asked Vahanvati and senior counsel Harish Salve to consolidate and compile the issues framed by the parties and submit it before the court on Thursday.
The Bench, which had on March 29 stayed the implementation of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006 from the academic year 2007-08, would consider the constitutional issues framed by the counsel representing the rival parties before deciding whether to refer the matter to a larger bench. The verdict is expected next week.
Later, Justice Pasayat’s Bench had also turned down the Centre’s plea for vacating the stay and posted the case for hearing in the third week of August but the date was advanced to May 8 after the Government approached Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan.
However, it was highly unlikely that the OBC quota law would be implemented from the coming academic session. Even if the matter is referred to a Constitution Bench, setting up the Bench during the summer vacation is unlikely as most of the judges would not be available.
Asking the parties to complete the necessary pleadings and other formalities in eight weeks, the court made it clear that it would not allow further individuals and organisations, except registered political parties, to become parties to the case, as all the states have been made partes to the litigation. Lalu Prasad’s Rastriya Janata Dal has already moved an impleadment application.
The broader constitutional issues to be considered by the SC are:
i) Whether 93rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 2005 and Article 15(5) are unconstitutional as being violative of the basic structure of the Constitution? Does it confer unbridled power on the Centre/states to make special provision for “socially and educationally backward classes”?
ii) What is the true scope and ambit of Articles 15(4) and 15(5) of the Constitution?
iii) Whether the tests as to the interpretation of Articles 15(4) and 15(5) and Article 16(4) are the same?
iv) Whether the concept of ‘creamy layer’ formulated in Indra Sawhney case for exclusion of the affluent among the OBCs from the purview of reservation in government jobs under Article 16(4) is application to reservation for OBCs in educational institutions under Article 15(5) of the Constitution?
v) Whether reservation is permissible in super speciality courses?
vi) Whether caste-based reservation is permissible under Article 15 of the Constitution? If yes, what are the criteria for identification of the “classes” sought to be given benefit of reservation?
vii) Whether reservation for OBCs under the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006 without any time limit is permissible under the scheme of the Constitution?