SC upholds Bombay HC order, says reservations not a burden to bear for minority-run colleges

The Supreme Court (SC) has refused to overturn the Bombay high court’s (HC) decision to exempt minority degree colleges in Maharashtra from reserving seats for students belonging to socially weaker sections. On Friday, the bench of Justices Kurien Joseph and SK Kaul dismissed special leave petitions (SLP) filed by the state government and the University of Mumbai (MU) challenging the HC’s verdict, which came in October last year.

The verdict has come as a relief to minority institutes in the state, who had opposed the petitions in the court. Asgar Lakdawala, principal, Royal College, Bhayander, said, “I am very happy about it. We were confident that we will prevail. No one can challenge rights of minorities.”

The state had decided to move the apex court after several student organisations demanded that the minority institutes, which reserve 50% of their seats for students from one of the linguistic or religious minority groups, be brought back under the ambit of constitutional reservation. A day before the second merit list was to be issued in degree colleges, the state requested MU to stall admissions for ten days so that it could challenge HC’s decision.

Following SC’s verdict, MU announced resumption of the admission process, which was on hold since June 21.The second merit lists will now be out on Saturday. Students can now confirm their admissions by July 18.

In 2001, Maharashtra Association of Minority Education Institutions had challenged a 1997 state government resolution (GR) requiring minority institutes to reserve seats for socially backward students. In the subsequent year, HC put a stay on the GR, allowing these institutes to remain exempted from the constitutional provisions for reservation. In its final verdict, HC rejected the GR.

While arguing in the SC, the government said that states have a right to provide constitutional reservation in the educational institutes under its jurisdiction. The state argued that the minority institutes should have a quota for socially weaker section students so that they can have access to quality education. The government will now consult the additional solicitor general on the issue.

Meanwhile, student organisations are now seeking an amendment to article 15(5) of the constitution, which was added in 2006 and exempts minority institutes from the provisions of reservation. “We will meet the Union minister for human resource development under the leadership of Sharad Pawar,” said Manoj Tekade from Prahar Student Organisation.

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