The Supreme Court on Monday asked Attorney General G E Vahanvati to produce before it by tomorrow the material based on which the central government justified the sub-quota of 4.5 per cent carved out from the 27 per cent for minorities. Till then, it refused to stay the Andhra Pradesh High Court order striking down the sub-quota.
The Centre had appealed to the Supreme Court against the order, stating the latter had taken an erroneous view in striking down the provision, though the decision to provide the quota was done after an extensive survey.
Vahanvati told the vacation bench that counselling for IIT seats had already begun and 325 seats reserved for backward communities, including Muslims. He said if the High Court judgment was not stayed, the admission process would be upset.
However, the bench of judges K S Radhakrishnan and J S Khehar declined to interfere. On the other hand, they expressed their “unhappiness” with the way the government had handled the issue. They repeatedly remarked that the government had not produced any material for arriving at the 4.5 per cent sub-quota. They said this was not done either before the High Court or now before it.
“This is not the manner in which you should have handled an important and sensitive issue like this,” the judges told the Attorney General. There are several statutory bodies and commissions which should have studied the backwardness of the communities and reported to the government before it could take a decision. There is no evidence of this exercise having undertaken, the judges said.
Vahanvati said that religion was not the issue in this case, but the degree of backwardness was. The sub-quota for Muslims and some Christian communities was based on their extreme backwardness. This was in accordance with the Mandal judgment of the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court of 1993.
However, the High Court had not discussed the Mandal judgment and erred on three counts. The counsel said there was nothing new in the government policy; it was only in line with the earlier judgments of the Supreme Court.
When the judges asked Vahanvati whether the sub-quota will affect the rest of the candidates in the 27 per cent for the backward classes, he replied it will only affect “marginally”.
The High Court on May 28 had held that the Centre acted in a “casual manner” in granting the sub-quota and said that the Office Memorandum creating the sub-quota was based on religious grounds and not on any other intelligible consideration.