New Delhi: The socially and economically advanced among the other backward classes (OBCs) may not get the benefits of the new educational quota policy as the government prepares its case to urge the Supreme Court to lift its stay on the new policy.
"My team of lawyers will find it very hard to convince the court to vacate the stay if you press for the inclusion of the creamy layer," Law and Justice Minister H.R. Bhardwaj told a section of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at its meeting Friday, according to coalition sources.
Held at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh' residence, the meeting of UPA constituents as well as representatives of the Left parties that support the government from outside decided to approach the apex court to seek vacation of the stay granted by a two-judge bench of the same court last week.
In an order on a bunch of petitions on March 29, the Supreme Court suspended the implementation of the 27 percent quota for OBC students for the coming academic session. The parliament had passed the necessary law unanimously last December.
The sources said Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi maintained a stoic silence throughout the two-and-a-half-hour of animated discussions on the subject and so did Congress president's political secretary Ahmed Patel, the only functionary of the party present at the meeting.
Dravidian leaders like Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister T.R. Baalu of DMK and Puducherry MP M. Ramadass of PMK insisted on the inclusion of the creamy layer. They were supported by Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leaders Lalu Prasad and Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Ram Vilas Paswan.
However, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo member Sitaram Yechury supported Bhardwaj on excluding the creamy layer from the purview of the quota policy.
The law minister cited a notification of the National Front government of V.P. Singh in 1990 implementing reservation for OBCs, which had excluded the creamy layer.
"That is why we say first amend the V.P. Singh notification," said Baalu supported by Ramadass, according to the sources.
The 'creamy layer' or socially and economically advanced members of the OBCs, according to a cabinet note of August 2006 when it gave a green signal to the quota bill, includes "those holding constitutional offices or particular services, practicing professions of a particular kind or having an income level".
The government rejected outright the demand made by Baalu to hold a caste-based census to solve this dilemma once and for all. The apex court in its stay had pointed out that the reservation move was based on archaic data.
Lalu Prasad said the government should seek views of all political parties on the proposal, perhaps realizing that there are strong votaries for OBC reservation in other parties too and none would oppose the OBC reservation - not openly.
Baalu spoke at length, recalling the circumstances under which the erstwhile British rulers had been persuaded to look into the composition of backward classes in the 1931 census. He reminded that the then government was persuaded by E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker 'Periyar' to go for the 'communal government order' of 1926, which eventually resulted in the 1931 census.
Baalu also reminded the government that the goal of social justice was accepted in the UPA's Common Minimum Programme (CMP) for national governance and acknowledged by all UPA constituents. He said it was agreed to amend Article 15 of the constitution, inserting a clause to this effect in the 93rd amendment.
Baalu and Ramadoss also felt that the two-judge bench had not categorically stayed the OBC reservation policy and there was need to read its order carefully and interpret it rightly.
Yechury suggested that if the stay cannot be vacated and the OBC reservation not implemented right away from the next academic session, the extra seats and infrastructure facilities provided to the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to implement the quota should be withdrawn till the policy is implemented.