THE ongoing hearing by the Supreme Court Constitution Bench on the validity of OBC reservations in higher educational institutions has so far dealt with issues, some of which have already been debated on this blog earlier. Today, as I was listening to senior advocate, P.P.Rao, who is a counsel for one of the petitioners who challenged the OBC quota, I was struck by the originality of his ideas on the controversy. Here, I sum up some of his views, which I heard this morning. I am not indicating my own position on his views as of now, but would reserve my views till full consideration of his arguments. I am just posting Mr.Rao’s views for the benefit of some of our readers who are interested in a daily report on the hearing as such. The daily newspaper reports have not really done justice in reporting the arguments advanced so far by Mr.Harish Salve, and Mr.Rohtagi, both counsel for the petitioners.
Mr.P.P.Rao’s views (summed up in my words)
* There is a difference in the language of the Articles 15 (4), 15(5) and (16(4). Article 16(4) specifically refers to adequacy of representation of backward classes, whereas Article 15 is silent on this. Therefore, the argument that quota in educational institutions is required to ensure representation of these sections is basically flawed.
* Article 15(4) says State can make any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the SCs and STs. The term “educationally backward class of citizens” can only refer to school education, and not education in higher educational institutions, because once you finish your school education, you are not supposed to be educationally backward, and ought to be deemed to have entered the level playing field.
* His reference to Article 21A (Right to Education) to suggest that the State has an obligation to provide education only upto the age of 14 and not in higher educational institutions was countered by the Chief Justice who pointed out that the mandate for compulsory education stems from the reality that the State may not have resources to provide education. Probably that was the reason, higher education was kept out of this mandate.
Mr. Rao’s arguments are continuing.