The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Arjun tilts to religious quota

New Delhi, May 28: Arjun Singh today said he was “not averse” to reservation in educational institutions on the basis of religion, even as the Supreme Court contemplates the legitimacy of such a quota.

In a summer of confrontation between his human resource development ministry and the court, Singh’s statement could bring about yet another heat wave, with the apex court clearly not decided on allowing religion-based quotas.

Singh was speaking after meeting Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi, who yesterday said his government would promulgate an ordinance to reserve seats for Muslims and Christians within the already reserved quota in higher educational institutions.

“If such a proposal comes before the Centre, the cabinet will consider it,” Singh said.

Such a quota would not hurt general-category students, who have waged street battles with police over OBC reservations. But it is unlikely to go down well with the apex court, as the Andhra Pradesh government recently found out.

After Andhra Pradesh High Court struck down a legislation providing 5 per cent reservation for Muslims in educational institutions and government jobs, the state government approached the apex court.

The Supreme Court turned down the government’s plea for quashing the high court order.

Right now, the HRD ministry is in the middle of a slugfest with the apex court over the OBC reservation bill. Neither side is willing to give an inch. The Supreme Court has stayed the implementation of the quota for the coming academic year — a decision the ministry is hoping the court will reverse by the time the next academic year starts.

Singh is also believed to have reassured Karunanidhi that Tamil would be designated a “classical language” as demanded by his DMK government.

He and the chief minister also discussed the matter of granting deemed university status to the Salem-based Periyar University.

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