The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quota lost, govt kills time

New Delhi/Ahmedabad, April 23: The Supreme Court today refused to lift the stay on the Other Backward Classes quota in central educational institutions, robbing the government of any excuse to keep IIM admissions on hold.

But the human resource development ministry kept the B-schools in suspense. Till late this evening, it hadn’t withdrawn the order not to release the general-category admissions list before the OBC list.

“If we are allowed to begin the admission process in a few days, we shall be able to give the students at least two weeks’ time to accept the offer,” IIM Ahmedabad director Bakul Dholakia said. Normally, a student gets three weeks.

HRD ministry officials went into a huddle but stayed silent on admissions, with sources murmuring vaguely about “another plan”.

“We will wait; we will not seek any clarification from the ministry,” said Dholakia, who had earlier angered the government by saying the general list would be released on April 21.

The new academic session begins in late June or early July, and today’s two-judge division bench ruling has made it virtually impossible for the quota to be introduced this academic year.

The only hope for the government seems to be to get an aggrieved OBC candidate who had appeared in the IIM interview to move court for relief. Application forms for IIM seats had already been made available when petitions were filed for a stay on the quota till its constitutional validity had been decided.

The Centre is also expected to seek advancement of the hearing on the validity, now set for August, and ask for transfer of the case from the division bench to a Constitution bench.

The court today said it had no reason to revoke the stay, ordered on March 29.

When solicitor-general G.E. Vahanvati said deferring the reservation may cost OBC students another year, “which will be the 57th year of denial after the Constitution (was adopted)’’, the court shot back: “If you could wait for 56 years, you could wait for one more year.”

The government argued that most features of OBC reservation had been settled by a Constitution bench in the Indra Sawhney (Mandal Commission) case and was binding on the division bench.

But the court said that the Sawhney judgment could be invoked only if the Centre agreed to exclude the “creamy layer” (well-off) from the ambit of reservation, as the Constitution bench had ruled in that job quota case.

To the government’s argument that it was increasing seats to avoid hurting general students, senior counsel Harish Salve said every (quota or non-quota) candidate had a right to the seats added at the taxpayer’s expense.

The BJP poured scorn on the government for its “utter failure to plead the case in the right perspective”.

The Congress was divided as it mulled how to meet the setback. The official spokesman, Satyavrat Chaturvedi, left it to the government to seek legal counsel and decide further action.

But a hardline lobby backed a public campaign to explain how sincere the government had been about the quota and how the court had frustrated its efforts.

The CPI and CPM, as well as the Congress’s southern allies DMK and PMK, were unhappy with the verdict. The CPI said Parlia- ment must intervene and the DMK demanded that the Houses be reconvened immediately.

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