17 Nov : The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to explain whether the vacant OBC seats in Central Educational Institutions were being filled up by general candidates, in compliance with its earlier directive.A five-member Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan also asked the Centre to clarify on the allegation that the unfilled seats of OBCs were being filled up with retrospective effect by enhancing the income ceiling limit from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 4.5 lakh.
The bench which included Justices Arijit Pasayat, R V Raveendran, Altamas Kabir and Dalveer Bhandari directed the Centre to clarify the position on the twin issue by filing an affidavit.
The direction was passed on a writ petition filed by a student Vishwarath Reddy alleging that the Centre was filling up the vacant OBC seats with candidates from this category by relaxing the norms and enhancing the income ceiling from Rs 2.5 to Rs 4.5 lakh, thus, denying the general category candidates the benefit extended by the apex court earlier.
On 14th October, the Constitution Bench had firmly told the Centre that the unfilled OBC seats in terms of the 27 per cent reservation extended to the community in central educational institutions, should be filled up with the general category candidates.
The apex court had said that all vacant OBC seats would revert to the general category pool and had also asked the Centre to fill these up by October-end
However, Reddy in his writ petition alleged that the Centre instead of ensuring compliance of the apex court order had come out with an "office memorandum" on 13th October by enhancing the income limit for OBC category students.
The issuance of the office memorandum was done a day prior to the apex court directive since the Centre had anticipated the 14th October order, Senior Counsel K K Venugopal appearing for the petitioner complained.
Solicitor General G Vahanvati sought to question the maintainability of the petition, but the apex court directed him to file an affidavit to clarify the position.
Meanwhile, the Centre in an affidavit defended its move to increase the seats in Central educational institutions by 54 per cent to give effect to the 27 per cent quota reservations benefits to the OBCs.
Vahanvati, rejected the argument of the anti-quota lobby that the increase in seats should be only 27 per cent.
He submitted that if the seats were not increased by 54 per cent, then it would deprive the SC, STs of the 22.5 per cent statutory quota fixed for them.
By way of an illustration, the Government explained that if the the total number of seats is to be increased without disturbing the 77 seats (out of 100), the number of seats has to be increased to 154 and not 127 as sought by the anti-quota activists.
By increasing the seats to 154 the SCs, STs together would get 35 seats, OBCs 42 and the general category 77 seats, the Centre explained.
In its 14th October order, the apex court had held that the seats remaining vacant after the implementation of the 27 per cent OBC quota cannot be carried forward and all the seats have to be filled by the end of October.
The court disagreed with the Centre’s stand that the unfilled OBC seats can be accumulated for three years before being allotted to students from the General Category.
"The vacant seats cannot be filled in a staggered manner," the Bench had said adding "how can educational seats be carried forward".
The Bench on 15th September had observed that hug difference in the cut-off marks would be "counter-productive" to the excellence of the educational institutions.
The anti-quota petitioners had drawn the attention of the bench that even after the implementation of the law, the Central Educational Institution (Reservation in admission) — seats have remained vacant and there was a confusion over it.
The court is also seized of another controversial issue concerning the 10th April judgement as anti-quota petitioners have contended that the majority verdict has set a benchmark that a graduate cannot be considered educationally backward.
This aspect had reached the apex court after Calcutta High Court had stayed the implementation of the 27 per cent OBC quota in Central educational institutions.