New Delhi, Apr 10 : The Supreme Court's decision approving the government's plan for affirmative action through quotas in colleges and universities for socially and economically backward classes was hailed by politicians as well as underprivileged students.
In its verdict on Thursday, the apex court pronounced that the Union government was legally right to provide affirmative action and 27 per cent quota in higher educational institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) for the socially and economically deprived sections.
Under the plan, the lower castes' share of places in educational institutions would more than double to nearly 50 per cent.
Students standing to benefit from the government's reservation plan welcomed the decision of the apex court and said that it signaled the defeat of those who argued against it.
"We welcome the verdict of the Supreme Court from the bottom of our heart. It has proved wrong those who argued for reservation to the OBCs," said Rohit, Delhi State Secretary of Student Federation of India.
Hailing the decision as historic, Union Minister for Human Resources Development, Arjun Singh said: "This is a very historic judgment and the students belonging to the OBC category will benefit from it."
Country's main opposition party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said that the verdict is crucial.
"Honourable Supreme Court has given this verdict and it's a decision of utmost importance. It's a decision by a constitutional bench, therefore, it needs to be analyzed thoroughly," said Ravi Shankar Prasad, spokesperson of the BJP.
Welcoming the decision, veteran leader of the Communist Party of India A. B. Vardhan said, "In my opinion this is a very good verdict. Moreover, it has come from the Supreme Court."
Significantly, the apex court judges ruled that the privileged among the lower castes (the creamy layer) would not be entitled to the quota benefits from the reservation quota.
A five member constitutional bench headed by the Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan asked the government to draw parameters to identify the creamy layer. The court also asked the government to include children of MPs and MLAs in the creamy layer, thereby excluding them from the quota.
The new policy, if implemented, would take the overall reservation in the Government-funded higher education institutions from the current 22.5 (for SC and ST students) to 49.5 per cent.
The government's move had split the country leading to widespread protests across country when it was announced last year.
Many argued that the plan could hurt country's rapid economic rise. But it has the support of millions of students from underprivileged groups.
The apex court had stayed the implementation of quotas last year, asking the government to clarify the criteria under which reservation should be granted.
On November 1, 2007, the apex court had reserved its judgment after a hearing that lasted 25 days on petitions challenging the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006.
The petitions had said that the creamy layer should not get reservation benefits and that the OBC quota would divide society. The key objection in the case was that the Government had based the quota on data obtained in a 1931 survey.
Besides the Chief Justice, other members on the Bench included, Justice Arijit Pasayat, Justice C. K. Thakker, Justice R. V. Raveendran and Justice Dalveer Bhandari.