In a decision that could further fuel uncertainty over 27 per cent reservations in elite Central educational institutions this year, the Supreme Court on Thursday referred the issue to a larger bench framing a wide range of questions including the validity of the quota law and caste based reservations.
"Considering the considerable importance of the issues involved and its likely impact in the social life of the country as a whole and complexities of the questions, it is appropriate that the matter should be heard by a larger bench. It is needless to say that the larger bench hearing the matter can consider further issues or questions involved," a two-member bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and L S Panta said, placing the matter before the Chief Justice.
With the Supreme Court scheduled to go into summer vacation from Monday next, the government, which is eager on implementation of the reservation law from this year, is expected to approach the Chief Justice for early constitution of the larger bench and expeditious hearing.
The two-member bench said that among the basic issues, which needed to be considered by the larger bench are whether the 93rd Constitutional amendment and Article 15 (5) providing for reservations for socially and educationally backward classes are unconstitutional as being violative of its basic structure, especially the provisions relating to quota in private educational institutions.
One of the questions asked whether the 93rd amendment conferred on the State an unbridled power to make special provisions for socially and educationally backward classes without indicating circumstances when such a provision could be made.
It wanted to know whether this could be done without imposing any limit either on the contents or duration of such special provisions and whether therefore, it was wholly destructive of the right of equality of citizens and basic structure.
The court also wanted the larger bench to discuss whether the impugned law was inconsistent with the principles of secularism as minority institutions have been exempted.
The larger bench will also consider the true ambit and scope of Articles 15 (4) and (5) and whether the meaning of the term 'special provisions' in these Articles include quotas by reservations of seats especially in higher education institutions and professional and technical, institutions, particularly those of national stature and in courses categorised as speciality or super speciality.
"Is it a permissible measure of advancement of socially and educationally backward classes," was one of the questions.