Mumbai: Minority colleges can’t be asked to reserve seats for backward classes

Mumbai, Nov 9 (TOI): Minority educational institutions cannot be asked to reserve seats for backward classes, the Bombay high court has held in a landmark ruling. The high court bench of Justices Amjad Sayed and M S Karnik set aside as unconstitutional a circular issued 16 years ago by Mumbai University.

It held that under constitutional amendments brought about in 2006, "minority educational institutions, both aided and unaided, are exempted from enforcement of the reservation policy of the state in respect of backward class of citizens".

The 2001 circular imposed a 50% reservation for backward classes in minority colleges offering arts, science, commerce and other professional courses. St Xavier's College, a leading minority institution, through its then principle Fr J M Dias and the Maharashtra Association of Minority Educational Institutions, had immediately challenged its validity, fairness and constitutionality.

There cannot be a 50% reservation for backward classes in the 50% minority quota for students belonging to the community for which these institutions were set up, Biren Saraf, their counsel submitted. University counsel Rui Rodrigues said it was only applying Maharashtra Reservation Policy of 1997 to minority educational institutions too. State lawyer Abhay Patki, though, said the policy never mentioned its applicability to these institutions.

The court stayed the circular in 2002. In its interim order then, it directed that reserved category students could compete for admission on merit with open category students for the balance 50% seats in "non-minority" quota. The stay continued till the matter was decided last month. The judgment was made available on Wednesday.

The issue before the high court essentially was whether there could be any reservation for backward classes in minority colleges. The field of minority and unaided institutions has been fraught with legal tussles with states. Institutions often had to seek clarity and respite against restrictive regulations from the Supreme Court.

In 2006, the 93rd amendment to the Constitution proved to be a game changer. It brought in Article 15(5) which barred states from making any special salutary law for admission of socially and educationally backward classes or reserved category students to minority institutions. Such laws, to promote education among other backward classes, though, were allowed in unaided institutions.

In 2008, a five-judge bench of Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of Article 15(5) and the exemption given to minority institutions. The validity of Article 15(5) was again questioned, now by private unaided institutions in Pramati Educational Trust case. In 2014, the SC once again held that minority institutions are not within the state's purview.

"While minority institutions remain committed to taking in deserving candidates from disadvantaged classes, to have additional reservation for the remaining seats was considered unconstitutional by us. The HC has now upheld our contention in its ruling," said Fr Frazer Mascarenhas, former principle of St Xavier's College.

Comment on this article

  • Dr Mohan Prabhu, LL.D, QC, Mangalore (Kankanady)/Ottawa, Canada

    Fri, Nov 10 2017

    The HC appears to be on solid constitutional grounds. However, there should be special consideration (and I emphasize "consideration") for students from disadvantaged communities (without distinction of caste or creed - and in the latter case, without ulterior motive, but strictly on humanitarian grounds) especially where mainstream institutions are unable to take them or are non-existent. Admission should be on pro bono basis, not dictated.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Edward, Mangalore/Bangalore

    Thu, Nov 9 2017

    Why cant any government come out and make education totally free for all the students from bottom to top. After this why cant anyone ban this curse called reservation?

    Simply ask the students to pay a certain amount to the government for a certain number of years, once they get placed. And throw out reservation out of the window and give jobs purely based on merit.

    Why cant the priests from all the castes be kept away from politics as well ?? Like someone said Jaathi, jaathi, jaathi. One day this jaathi will be the bane of all our troubles.

    DisAgree Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse

  • Srinivasa S, Udupi

    Thu, Nov 9 2017

    Minority institutions, minority affairs, minority places of worship all are not within the state's purview. What state wants is only the control of majority institutions, majority affairs, majority places of worship. For people's sake, please stop this injustice.

    DisAgree [5] Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse

  • Ivar, Mangalore

    Thu, Nov 9 2017

    jaathi.. jaaathi...jaaathi..
    I think the judges too have reached there by quotas!!

    DisAgree [6] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Flavian dsouza, chik/bengaluru

    Thu, Nov 9 2017

    Backward classes deserve some waivers especially if their parents are uneducated . Its a great disadvantage for children to have uneducated parents and does not provide a level playing field . Majority of the backward classes have this problem

    DisAgree [1] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

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Title : Mumbai: Minority colleges can’t be asked to reserve seats for backward classes


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