Supreme Court clears air on OBC cut-off
OUR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, Aug. 18: The minimum cut-off marks under the OBC quota at
central universities should be lower than the cut-off set for the
general category by up to 10 per cent, the Supreme Court today ruled.
The clarification had become necessary as certain institutions, such
as Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), were setting the OBC cut-off at
10 per cent less than the marks obtained by the last student actually
admitted under the general category.
Since the last general student's marks are virtually always higher
than the cut-off (which is a mere eligibility criterion) set for his
category, OBC students were losing out. Many OBC quota seats remained
vacant and were subsequently absorbed into the general category.
A two-judge bench today clarified that the originally prescribed
general category cut-off would be the yardstick in calculating the OBC
cut-off, but said the order would not affect those already admitted
for the 2011-2012 session.
If any central institution has already fixed the quota cut-off with
reference to the marks secured by the last general candidate to be
admitted, and has allotted the vacant OBC seats to general candidates,
such admissions will not be disturbed.
But institutions where the process of such conversion and allotment
has not been completed, the remaining quota seats should be filled by
OBC candidates under the correct rule, the bench said. If some OBC
seats still remain vacant, they can be given to general candidates.
"If the last date for admission has expired, (it) shall be extended
till August 31, 2011, as a special case to enable admissions to the
vacant OBC seats," the court said.
The bench was clarifying a five-judge apex court bench's judgment of
October 14, 2008, validating a 2005 law that enables central higher
education institutions to provide 27 per cent reservations for OBCs.
On September 7 last year, a single-judge Delhi High Court bench had
ruled that the "last general candidate" rule was incorrect. The apex
court today upheld the high court verdict against an appeal by former
IIT director P.V. Indiresan.
The appellant had cited the wording of the apex court's October 2008
order, which said the "maximum cut-off marks for OBCs be 10 per cent
below the cut-off marks of general category candidates".
Indiresan argued that "cut-off marks" denotes the marks secured by the
last candidate admitted to a particular course or under a particular
category, and is not synonymous with "minimum eligibility marks" or
"minimum qualifying marks".
Cut-off marks, he contended, are decided with reference to a merit
list, prepared on the basis of the number of seats available for a
OBC candidates' lawyers, however, argued that linking quota admission
to an uncertain and fluctuating benchmark (the last general
candidate's marks) would defeat the purpose of the reservation and
deny OBCs their just entitlement.
Justices R.V. Raveendran and A.K. Patnaik rejected Indiresan's
contention, saying the expression "cut-off marks" is freely used, even
in academic circles and central educational institutions, to describe
the originally prescribed minimum eligibility/qualifying marks. The
bench cited the All India Institute for Medical Sciences' prospectus
for MBBS admission.
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