The big debate is on the recommendation of a religious minority status for the Lingayats in Karnataka. While the opposition BJP has termed the decision by the Karnataka Congress government as an attempt to divide the Hindus, the other question is who will such a move benefit.
The reservation quota for the Lingayats is unlikely to go up if the tag is accorded. It is bound to remain at 5 per cent only as the reservation quota will not be re-written. Interestingly, it was pointed out that this would, in the long run, benefit the medical colleges run by Lingayats.
The state Cabinet made the recommendation and sent it for approval to the Union Government. First and foremost the Centre would examine if the Lingayats are entitled for minority status to secure benefits under Article 30 of the Constitution. The Centre would then take a decision under Section 2(f) of the National Commission Minority Educational Institutions Act of 2004.
If the decision is made the benefits would automatically pass on to the medical colleges run by Lingayats. Medical and professional colleges would get the protection under Article 30 and this would minimise the control of the state government over them. As a result of this, these institutes could admit up to 50 per cent of the students that they can reserve for their community.
With the degree of control by the state government going down considerably, the college would have greater administrative autonomy and would also have the freedom of appointments.
In the landmark TMA Pai Foundation case the Supreme Court went on to define the rights of the minorities. It also said that a commission should be appointed to decide on who are minorities. It was in 2004 that the government appointed a commission. As of today, the decision making power lies with the Centre.
Senior Advocate Mohan Katarki says that in such cases the states legally have the right to consider any such representation. However, it is the Centre which was vested with the power in 2004 which will take a final call on the matter.