The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quota in SC court

New Delhi, May 29: At a time striking medicos are demanding an independent evaluation of the government’s reservation policy, the Supreme Court today decided to examine the latest Other Backward Classes quota in all its “social and political ramifications”.

The court also raised the question who an OBC is and asked the government to explain the norms for identifying these classes ' an issue linked to their numbers and therefore the quota percentage.

It also sent notices to the ministries concerned ' including the human resource development ministry ' giving them eight weeks to explain how exactly the quota was going to be implemented.

“Now that we have taken up the matter, they (the agitating students) should call off the strike,” the vacation bench said ' an appeal the medicos rejected.

The court took note of petitions, filed by Shiv Khera and advocate Ashok Kumar Thakur, that argued that the government’s quota policy would divide the country on the basis of caste. It said it would study the effect reservations have on society.

“These questions have serious social and political ramifications and this court will deal with it appropriately,” the bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice L.S. Panta said.

The court’s stress on the definition of an OBC could put under the scanner the exact share of backward classes in Indian society.

In the mid-1950s, the Kaka Kalelkar commission had identified 1,200 backward classes. The Mandal commission ' which later provided the basis for 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in government jobs ' prepared a list of 2,200 such castes. The government later added another 1,000 to the list.

Mandal assumed that 52 per cent of India’s population belonged to the backward castes, but Thakur pointed out that there had been no census on the basis of caste since 1931.

The petitions challenge the validity of the 93rd Constitutional Amendment Act extending reservation in higher learning for the socially and economically backward.

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