Indian Supreme Court issues notice to government over quota issue

Monday, May 29, 2006 A vacation bench of the Indian Supreme Court comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and L.S Panta issued a notice to the Central Government questioning the basis for the government's decision to reserve 27% of the seats in universities for members of the Other Backward Class group of castes. The notice also asked the government to explain how this move would be implemented without depriving meritorious students from the "forward" castes their fair chance at securing seats. The court also wanted the Centre to explain the basis on which castes would be classified as "backward" or "forward".

The government has been granted eight weeks time by the Bench to file an affidavit in regard to this notice. The apex court also said that it would examine the effects of this policy, which, the petitioner said, would divide the country on the basis of caste thereby threatening India's integrity. The Bench said that the questions posed to it had serious social and political significance and would hence be dealt with appropriately. The two petitions were filed by Shiv Khera and advocate Ashok Kumar Thakur. Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramianam, who was representing the respondents, accepted the notice and appreciated the Court's view that striking medical students should return to work in the interest of the patients.

The medical students welcomed this move and have decided to start running parallel outpatient clinics from tomorrow onwards. They have however clarified that their movement will continue despite the government's assurances that the number of seats in institutes will be increased. The main opposition party, the BJP has said that it supports the reservation policy, but that financially disadvantaged students from the "forward" castes should also be given consideration.