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Aligarh loses minority quota

Lucknow, Jan. 5: A day after the Supreme Court refused to stay the freeze on the Muslim job and education quota in Congress-ruled Andhra, the Centre has lost a high court case on reservation for minorities.

Allahabad High Court today upheld an earlier verdict that denied minority status to the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). It held, therefore, that the new 50 per cent quota for minority students in the university’s postgraduate medical course was illegal.

The judgment by the two-judge division bench is the latest in a series of clashes between the judiciary and the legislature.

AMU had been declared a minority institution by Parliament through an amendment act in 1981. Using this as justification, the Union human resource development (HRD) ministry had on February 25 last year allowed the university to reserve seats for minority students in postgraduate medical courses. The AMU academic council then announced the 50 per cent quota.

In October, a single-judge bench of the high court struck down the reservation as well as the HRD ministry notification as “illegal”. It declared that “the Aligarh Muslim University Amendment Act of 1981 giving it minority status was unconstitutional”.

Today, the division bench of chief justice A.N. Ray and justice Ashok Bhushan upheld each of these rulings, striking down those sections of the 1981 act that granted the minority status as “ultra vires (beyond one’s legal powers) to the constitution”.

The bench cited a 1968 judgment by an 11-judge bench of the Supreme Court that held that AMU was not a minority institution.

The court refused to permit counsels for the Centre and the university to file a special leave petition in the apex court seeking a stay on the judgment. It said: “This is not a case in which a decision of the Supreme Court was needed.”

The Union HRD minister denied the judgment had been a “setback”. “We will decide what should be done,” Arjun Singh said.

Asked if there were any options, he shot back: “Definitely. You all know the options. You tell me what to do.”

The university said it would obey the court. “We will consult our legal cell but certainly we will abide by the order,” a spokesman said.

Under the order, students admitted under the quota last year should not be disturbed.

, but “from the 2006-07 academic session, exams (should) be held in the old format, without the provision of reservation”.

The old format allowed 50 per cent reservation for “internals”' students who had studied in AMU-run schools or intermediate colleges. Last August, this quota was slashed to 25 per cent and the new 50 per cent quota introduced for all Indian Muslims. Today’s judgment revives the 50 per cent “internals” quota.

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