The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Early hearing hope for IIMs

New Delhi, April 24: The Chief Justice of India today advanced to May 8 the hearing on the Other Backward Classes quota’s validity, opening up a window of hope for the government.

This makes it legally possible for the Centre to try and get the stay on the quota lifted on that date or sometime after it, and then try to introduce it from the 2007-08 session.

The human resource development ministry, however, disappointed hopes that it would clarify its position on the stalled IIM admission process.

The ministry, which held several meetings today, said the B-schools must wait till tomorrow to find out. The IIMs expect to be told they can begin admissions while keeping a route open to operate the OBC quota if and when the stay is lifted.

The fate of the stay might depend on who gets to hear the case, about which Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan said nothing today.

If normal procedure is followed, the case would be listed before the division bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice L.S. Panta — the same judges who were hearing the case, had stayed the quota and then refused to vacate the stay.

On May 8, then, the government would ask that the case be transferred to a five-judge Constitution bench. The petitioners who want the quota declared unconstitutional, too, favour this. So the two judges might agree and refer the matter to the Chief Justice.

Once the Constitution bench is set up, the Centre can petition it to lift the stay.

The best scenario for the Centre would be for the Chief Justice to list the matter directly before a five-judge bench, which would mean the government can seek revocation of the stay on May 8 itself.

In the normal course, the Constitution bench should include Justices Pasayat and Panta. But normally, a Chief Justice would have referred the government’s application for early hearing to the bench dealing with the case, the anti-quota petitioners said.

In court, they questioned the propriety of bypassing the two-judge bench, which had earlier fixed the hearing for the third week of August.

But the Chief Justice rejected the argument, saying: “It is my privilege (to entertain an application for early hearing).”

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