Supreme Court refuses stay on HC order on sub-quota for minorities

The apex court which questioned the calculation of providing 4.5% sub-quota within the 27% OBC quota, also asked the government whether there is any constitutional and statutory support for granting 4.5% sub-quota


New Delhi: Questioning the government on giving 4.5% sub-quota for minorities on the basis of religion, the Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stay the Andhra Pradesh High Court order quashing the decision, reports PTI.

"We are not inclined to grant stay," a bench comprising justices KS Radhakrishnan and JS Khehar said while issuing notices to the petitioner on whose PIL the high court had quashed the 4.5% sub-quota for minorities carved out of the 27% other backward class (OBC) quota in central educational institutions like the IIT.

The bench, before which the Ministry of Human Resource Development placed the relevant and supporting documents forming the basis for the sub-quota, asked "can you make classification on the basis of religion".

It further said that the 22 December 2011 Office Memorandum on the issue of sub-quota did not have the legislative support.

The bench, which also questioned the calculation of providing 4.5% sub-quota within the 27% OBC quota, wanted to know from the government as to "whether there was any constitutional and statutory support for granting 4.5% sub-quota. "We are asking whether 4.5% sub-quota has got constitutional or statutory support or not," the bench said.

It said "the second question is whether the office memorandum has constitutional and statutory support or not".

Additional Solicitor General Gourab Banerji made all efforts to see that the apex court considers his plea for staying the high court order in view of the ongoing counselling for IITs for which 325 candidates have been short listed under the 4.5% sub-quota for minorities.

However, the bench said it was not inclined to stay the high court order and noted that there was ambiguity in the calculation for carving out sub-quota within the 27% OBC quota.

The bench was of the view that carving out sub-quota from minorities would have a bearing on the OBCs.

The court once again questioned the government for not consulting statutory bodies like the National Commission of Minorities (NCM) and National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) in determining the sub-quota.

"Why you overlooked the NCBC and NCM. They are two most important statutory bodies," the bench asked.

At the outset, the bench told the Centre that voluminous documents, which have been placed before it now, should have been produced in the high court.

When Banerji said the high court was under the impression that the sub-quota was for all minorities, the bench shot back "it was because that was the reflection in the office memorandum".

Banerji said, all religious minorities like Buddhism and Zoroastrianism are not in the list of 4.5% sub-quota.

He said though the OBCs among the religious minorities are covered under 27% OBC quota, 4.5% sub-quota is granted to lowest ranks of Muslims or converts to Christianity.

Banerji said the first cut-off identifying the OBC within the minorities for 4.5% sub-quota were that they have to be socially and educationally backward and they have to be religious minorities.

At this, the bench said "that is the difficulty and that is the point. We can understand if its is across the board. How you made the calculation?"

The Centre had yesterday placed before the Supreme Court the "relevant" material and documents on the basis of which it carved out 4.5% sub-quota.

The apex court on 11th June had asked the Ministry of Human Resources Development to place the material before it. The bench had ticked off the government for the way it had handled the "complex" and "sensitive" issue.

The apex court had also expressed its "unhappiness" that the Centre was blaming the High Court when it had itself failed to produce documents to support its case.

The bench was critical of the Ministry of Human Resource Development rushing to the apex court with the appeal against the 28th May order of the High Court with out documents to justify the policy of carving out 4.5% sub-quota within the 27% OBC reservation.

The Union government had moved the apex court challenging the High Court order quashing the 4.5% sub quota for minorities.

The 22 December 2011 Office Memorandum for the sub-quota for socially and educationally backward classes of citizens belonging to minority communities in central educational institutions and jobs was announced by the Centre ahead of the Assembly elections in five states including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.


Political leaders on currency notes?

The Reserve Bank of India is reportedly considering a move to commemorate several more leaders and politicians by having them join Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, on currency notes

According to a report in the Time of India, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is working on plans to added leaders such as Dr BR Ambedkar, Chhattrapati Shivaji, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi as faces on currency notes along with Mahatma Gandhi. Is this a good move? Or will it only unleash a storm of jousting and lobbying by politicians about precisely which leader is accorded the honour? Experience already shows how politicians cynically manipulate public sentiment for petty publicity when it comes to naming or renaming states, cities, streets, roads, universities and public infrastructure. Do we want this to extend this to our currency notes?

More importantly, do we have an a transparent set of rules and regulations to decide the design and images on currency notes and to ensure that the issue of new currency does not lead to an increase in counterfeiting which is already rampant with regard to the Rs500 note?

Moneylife decided to check for public opinion on this issue through activists and the social media. The overwhelming reaction was that the design of India's currency should not become a political football field and that it would be best to keep all politicians and religious symbols away from the notes and stock to national emblems.

RTI activist, Subhash Agrawal set the ball rolling by saying, "The RBI move will create more problems with every politician demanding photo of his/her mentor or guardian printed on the currency. It can also be misused by the ruling party to glorify their leader(s) according to political requirements. Everybody will lobby for inclusion on currency notes. Any further idea of glorification of personalities including through currency notes should be dumped forever to avoid controversies. It is a problem best avoided."

Former ICICI Bank CEO, PV Maiya says the answer to the issue is provided with remarkable foresight by BR Ambedkar in his last speech to the Constituent Assembly in November 1949. He said:
"The second thing we must do is to observe the caution which John Stuart Mill has given to all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy, namely, not 'to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions.'  There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered life-long services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness. As has been well said by the Irish Patriot Daniel O'Connell, 'no man can be grateful at the cost of his honour, no woman can be grateful at the cost of her chastity and no nation can be grateful at the-cost of its liberty'. This caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country, for in India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship".
Ironically, by including BR Ambedkar among those sought to be commemorated on currency, the worthies at the RBI seem to have forgotten this.

Interestingly, the issue of confusion and acrimony over honours and symbolism involved in who features on currency notes becomes a problem only in democratic regimes, where politicians are almost obliged to play to their constituencies. Yet, most developed country democracies have managed to keep their currency free of such bickering.  

The US for instance, has barely a handful of its presidents on the country's currency notes. And it has only stuck to presidents. So far, the US has had George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln, to name a few.  In India, Mahatma Gandhi did not hold public office but is by far our most revered leader. Moreover, the president of India is the first citizen but it is the prime minister who is the power-centre. This in itself creates a recipe for problems, the minute the RBI decides to have more personalities on our currency.

We would also do well to remember that the RBI has already caused plenty of confusion in the coins it has been minting. Citizens of India find it very difficult to differentiate between 50 paise, Re1 and Rs2 coins (one particular earlier Rs2 model was criticised as the visually impaired could not identify it). Worse, the RBI has remained remarkably impervious to public criticism about the size and design of its coins despite plenty of feedback over the past two decades. If non-political coinage is subject to such opaqueness, how much worse will it get when paper currency is open to political machinations?

Nagesh Kini, a chartered accountant and social activist quips, "We have 33 crore gods and goddesses, we now attempt to glorify our innumerable sundry netas, mantris-shantris by designating them as governors and ambassadors and now into our currencies." So far, all the coins have the emblem of the Ashoka Pillar, which stands for peace and non-violence. This is featured in currency notes as well. Currently, the only personality gracing our currency notes is Mahatma Gandhi. These are the emblems that an average Indian is able to identify with.

Sudhir Badami, a civil engineer and transportation analyst, opines, "We are one nation with several regional leaders and aspirations each having respective avenues for expressions and fulfilment. The Indian currency must depict the concept of India and Bharat. India is one and this is a concept that cannot be challenged. The Reserve Bank should continue to adhere to the basic principles of currency representing the concept of India as it has been doing."

Prevailing systems like erecting statues of political leaders has invited a lot of trouble in the past, and are usually taken without consulting opposing political parties or without coming to a consensus.


HC says doctors harassed in name of ban on sex determination cases

The High Court observed that in some cases even if flimsy mistakes were committed by doctors, the local appropriate authorities are sealing machines and prosecuting them


Mumbai: Observing that doctors are harassed by the authorities under the pretext of not following norms set up for imposing ban on sex determination tests, the Bombay High Court has quashed a complaint in a lower court against a doctor couple in Beed district of Maharashtra, reports PTI.

The Court noted that Additional Director Health Service and Appropriate Authority of the State Government have already noticed that in some cases even if flimsy mistakes were committed by doctors, the local appropriate authorities are sealing machines and prosecuting them.

"It is also recognised that this kind of action amounts to harassment of medical practitioners", observed Justice AV Nirgude recently while allowing petition filed by the doctor couple.

"In my earlier orders I have very specifically opined that since the provisions of this Act are very strict, the appropriate authority before taking action against the medical practitioner must act meticulously", the judge remarked.

Dr Alka Gite and Dr Anant Gite, who were running a clinic at Parli Vaijnath in Beed, were charged with offences under Sections 23(1), 25 and 29 of Pre-Conception and Pre- Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act.

On 16th June 2011, the appropriate authority of Parli Vaijnath, appointed under the provisions of the Act, visited the clinic, inspected the record and found that the doctors had not filled up Form 'F' of the patients which is mandatory.

A panchnama was recorded, "incomplete" forms 'F' were seized and two sonography machines installed at the clinic were sealed. A notice was also sent to the doctors to show cause why action should not be taken against them.

The petitioners replied that they had completely filled up form 'F' of the patients and had not contravened any provision under the Act. The authorities then filed a complaint before Judicial Magistrate First Class who is now recording evidence before framing charge.

The doctor couple had challenged the legality of action mainly on the ground that the allegation made against them was completely false. The only allegation made against them was that they had not filled up forms 'F' completely of certain patients who were subjected to ultrasound sonography.

In order to verify the correctness of this allegation, the court perused the forms and found that the forms are completely filled up. Only items which were left untouched by the doctors were item No 9 and 13 of Form F.

The court noted that item 9 required information regarding history of genetic or medical disease in the family of the patient. In no such form in question this information was filled up.

Normally, a patient is referred for sonography test to examine the health of the child. In this background if the information regarding patient's genetic disease in the family is not mentioned in item 9, it clearly indicates that there was no genetic medical disease in the family of the patient, the judge noted.

"If the form is otherwise completely filled up, the applicants would not have left this item incomplete. The non-filling of this item thus is not contravention. It is not even lapse or inadvertence", observed Justice Nirgude.

Item 13 is clearly made applicable wherever laboratory test is recommended. The asterisk mark on the word 'recommended' clearly suggests that this item has to be filled up by a laboratory and not by ultrasound clinic. Thus, the allegation that these two items were left incomplete by the applicants, would not attract contravention of Sections 5 or 6 of the Act, the Judge noted.


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