Central govt "attempt to not implement" OBC reservation in State-surrendered medical seats for 2021-22 appears to be contempt: Madras High Court
The Madras High Court on Monday observed that the apparent attempts by the Central government not to implement Other Backward Classes (OBC) reservation in State-surrendered medical seats for the All India Quota (AIQ) in non-central medical colleges in Tamil Nadu appeared to be prima facie contempt of Court and in the teeth of the High Court's earlier order of July 27, 2020.
Admissions into the medical colleges in the State can now be only upon implementing such reservation quota, the Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy noted in its interim order.
The Bench opined that the Union's stance to defer the implementation of the OBC reservation until the Saloni Kumari case before the Supreme Court is decided was, prima facie, unacceptable.
"The Union's attempt to not implement the OBC reservation quota in respect of AIQ seats in the academic year 2021-22 appears to be contumacious, in derogation of the order dated July 27, 2020 passed by this Court and contrary to the representation made before the Supreme Court as recorded in the order dated October 26, 2020," the Court said.
The Court has now given the alleged contemnors a week's time to "indicate their considered stand as to the mode and manner of the (implementation of the) OBC reservation quota in terms of the 1993 Act in respect of AIQ seats in the State pertaining to medical and dental colleges from the next academic year of 2021-22."
The Court has also noted that the State government has already indicated its proposal for OBC reservation implementation to the Committee by the middle of October.
By the July 27, 2020 order, the High Court had directed the constitution of a Committee to work out how the OBC reservation can be implemented from the academic year 2021-2022, with the participation of the Central government, the State government, the Medical Council of India and the Dental Council of India.
A contempt plea was filed earlier this year by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party, which has raised concerns that the OBC reservation may not be implemented this academic year either.
Senior advocate P Wilson, appearing for the DMK, pointed out that while the Committee has been formed in terms of the High Court's order, the implementation of the OBC reservation is not being done citing an application pending before the Supreme Court.
He added that this pending application is not connected with or pose any impediment to the implementation of the OBC reservation in medical colleges in Tamil Nadu. He further pointed out that the Central government itself had earlier given a positive undertaking in the Supreme Court that the OBC reservation would be implemented from 2021-22 after the State government moved a plea in the Supreme Court urging for a shorter timeline for the reservation.
In arguments today, the counsel appearing for the Central government authorities countered that the All-India Quota is something that is being monitored by the Supreme Court. As such, some clarification is required before proceeding further, it was argued. There is no wilful disobedience of any order, it was asserted.
The Court, however, was unconvinced.
"We think this is in the teeth of the order of the court. You said that you would implement it this year. Long before, you said that the Saloni Kumar (case) has nothing to do with it," Chief Justice Banerjee orally observed.
Additional Solicitor General R Sankaranarayanan assured the Court that the Central government has not been against the implementation of the OBC quota, and that its only reservation was with respect to exceeding a 50% limit. The only question is the manner of implementation, the ASG said while seeking ten days' time to file an affidavit.
"It has to be implemented in the year 2021-22," Chief Justice Banerjee went on to emphasise, adding, "you make a statement, we’ll adjourn the matter, after a week you tell us how you will implement it. Not implementing is not a choice."
In its interim order, the Bench recorded that the matter was finally decided by the Madras High Court on July 27, 2020 after the Supreme Court clarified that the top Court is not dealing with any similar matter.
It also noted that in an October 26, 2020 order, the Supreme Court had recorded the Centre's submission that a committee was already in place to decide on how to implement the OBC reservations and further that the top Court had recorded that a final decision would be taken by the Committee for implementation from 2021-22.
"To repeat, the considered stand of the Union was that steps were being taken to implement the OBC reservation to AIQ seats int he State from the academic year 21-22," the Court noted.