Supreme Court Upholds Manipur University’s Decision To Reduce SC Quota To 2%, OBC Quota To 17% & Increase ST Quota To 31%
The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal against Manipur High Court’s order upholding the decision of Manipur University to reduce reservation in admission for Scheduled Caste candidates from 15% to 2%, OBC quota from 27% to 17% and increase for Scheduled Tribes candidates from 7.5% to 31%, in terms of amendment to the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act 2006.
By Srishti Ojha & Sneha Rao
A Bench comprising Justice Nageswara Rao and Justice Hima Kohli has issued the direction in an appeal challenging Manipur High Court’s order which upheld the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, in 2012 under which the Manipur University was required to follow the reservation norms of 2% for the candidates belonging to Scheduled Caste [SC], 31% for the Scheduled Tribes [ST] and 17% for the Other Backward Classes [OBC] for purposes of admission in the University.
Respondent in the case- Manipur University- was originally established as a ‘State University’ andnwas following the Manipur State reservation policy of 2% seats for SC candidates, 31% for ST candidates. In 2005, the Respondent University was converted into a Central University and in 2007 by virtue of the Reservation Act, the reservation policy as prescribed in Section 3 of the Reservation Act i.e. 15% for SCs, 7.5% for STs and 27% for OBCs became applicable. By way of Amendment Act, 2012 the Respondent University reverted back to its old policy to follow the reservation norm of 2% for the Scheduled castes, 31 % for the Scheduled Tribes and 17% for the Other Backward Classes.
The appellants had challenged the reduction in quota for SC category candidates from 15% as prescribed in Section 3 of the Reservation Act to 2% and filed a Writ Petition in the High Court of Manipur. In the impugned judgement, a single judge had disposed of the plea noting that after the amendment of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006 in 2012 introduced by the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Amendment Act, 2012, Manipur University has to follow the reservation norm of 2% for the Scheduled castes, 31 % for the Scheduled Tribes and 17% for the Other Backward Classes.
The Amendment Act was challenged by the Appellants Before the Apex Court. The Counsel for the Appellants had argued that High Court had erred in taking the view that the Amendment Act would be applicable to a Central Educational Institution located in Manipur. It was submitted that the amendments brought about by the Amendment Act are only in respect of tribal States falling under the purview of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India and not in respect of other States including a State like Manipur falling under “Specified north eastern region”, defined in the amended Section 2 (ia) of the Parent Act [ Reservation Act]. It was further submitted that It was submitted that the intention of the Legislature in amending the Reservation Act by introducing the Amendment Act was not to make the amendments applicable to CEIs situated in nontribal States like the State of Manipur.
The Union of India in response had submitted that the percentage of reservation for SC, ST and OBC candidates has been correctly pegged at 2%, 31% and 17% respectively for Court’s Reasoning Rejecting the contention of the appellants, the judgment authored by Justice Hima Kohli peruses through the Statement of Object and Reasons of the Amendment Act, 2012 and 234th Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Human Resources Development and notes that Central Educational Institutions particularly those situated in North-Eastern States which inhabit predominantly tribal population had expressed their inability to reduce the extent of reservation of seats for SCs and STs for ensuring reservation of 27% of the seats for the OBC category, as stipulated in the Reservation Act.
The Court notes:
“we do not intend to take notice of the said Report with an idea of determining the extent of reservation for SC and ST candidates in the light of the amendment by way of insertion to Section 3 of the Parent Act. However, the said Report can be treated as a useful tool to fathom the background in which the Amendment Act was introduced and throw light on what had weighed with the legislating authorities in proposing the amendments to the Reservation Act.” (Para 25)
It further notes:
“It can be discerned from the Statement of Objects and Reasons appended to the Amendment Bill, the background notes submitted to the Standing Committee by the Department of Higher Education and the 234th Report tabled by the Standing Committee in the Parliament that some of the CEIs, in particular those situated in North Eastern States having a predominant tribal population, expressed their inability to reduce the extent of reservation of seats for SCs and STs for ensuring reservation of 27% of the seats for the OBC category, as stipulated in the Reservation Act…..Recognising the fact that the composition of the population in the North Eastern States ought to be given precedence, the Standing Committee stated in its Report that while the extent of reservation of seats for SCs/STs may be definite, OBC reservation may differ from State to State. It was with the idea of reconciliating 50% cap on reservation for SCs/STs and 27% for the OBC quota, that the Amendment Bill was introduced primarily to remove the existing ambiguities and to overcome the difficulties that were being faced by the CEIs established in the Sixth Schedule States, to accommodate the aspirations of a large tribal population in that region.” (Para 27)
The Court categorically rejects the appellant’s contention that Amendments brought about were only directed towards tribal states covered by the Sixth Schedule and cannot be made applicable to the State of Manipur since the Amendment was brought about to “accommodate the aspirations of a large tribal population in that region.” In this backdrop, it states:
“Accepting such a submission would tantamount to negating the very aim and object of the Amendment Act, which was enacted only to resolve the difficulties that were being faced by the CEIs in implementing the Reservation Act when it came to the North Eastern States, including the State of Manipur. The two provisos inserted in Section 3 of the Parent Act are nothing but a recognition of the demography of the North Eastern States covered under the umbrella of “Specified north eastern region” which have a substantial tribal population.” (Para 27)
The Court also rejected the argument that the meaning ascribed to the words “date immediately preceding the date of commencement of the 2006 Act”, used in Clause (a) of the second proviso to Section 3 should be taken to mean the date just before enactment of the Amendment Act, i.e., a roll back to the situation as was prevalent when the Reservation Act had come into force viz. 15% for SCs, 7.5% for STs and 27% for OBC candidates. It stated:
“any such interpretation would strike at the root of the Amendment Act which was legislated with the sole object of overcoming the ambiguities that had come to the fore on working out the warp and woof of the Reservation Act, namely, the inability to meet the aspirations of a large number of ST candidates looking for opportunities to gain entry in CEIs located in the areas subsequently defined as the “Specified north eastern region” in the Amendment Act.” (Para 29)
The Apex Court reiterates the stand taken by the Manipur High Court that Respondent University was correct in calculating the extent of reservation of seats in making admissions to different courses, viz., 31% for ST candidates, 2% for SC candidates and 17% for OBC candidates which is in line with the mandate of the Amendment Act. The Court also expresses its agreement with the finding of the single judge that the reference point of the period for determining the reservation quota for OBC candidates must be the same as that of the SC and ST candidates. In this regard it states:
“for working out the reservation quota for OBC candidates would necessarily require one to find out in the first instance, as to what would be the difference between 50% of the annual permitted strength and the combined existing percentage for the SC and ST candidates, as obtained on the date immediately preceding the date of commencement of the Reservation Act. Both the issues are so interlaced that to determine the percentage of reservation for OBC candidates, one would have to undertake an exercise of determining the percentage of seats to be reserved for SC and ST candidates, all within the four corners of the second proviso inserted in Section 3 of the Parent Act. Any other interpretation sought to be assigned to the second proviso to Section 3 inserted postamendment, would make the proviso itself unworkable and redundant and is, therefore, impermissible.” (Para 33)
Courtesy : LiveLaw
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