Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mandal II hearing ends: Petitioners’ counsel reply (P.P.RAO)

The Constitution Bench completed the hearing today. I will sum up the oral replies of P.P.Rao, Dr.Rajeev Dhawan, Harish Salve and K.K.Venugopal to the arguments of respondents’ counsel. In view of time constraints, I am posting Rao first, and others later.

P.P.RAO: On October 31, Rao had a difficult time explaining to the Bench that he was not against expenditure on higher education. First, Justice Pasayat explained that the SG in fact, meant that both primary and higher education can be balanced. Justice C.K.Thakker told Rao: “Your position seems to be that unless 100 per cent school education is achieved, you can’t proceed towards higher education at all”.

Justice Pasayat intervened to say that the SG in fact, said that our lack of progress in basic education cannot be a ground to invalidate the law making OBC reservations in Central government institutions. Justice Raveendran also pointed out that school and higher education are different issues, and cannot be linked. Justice Dalveer Bhandari specifically asked Rao whether it is his argument that till 100 per cent success is achieved in basic education, you cannot spend on higher education.

The Chief Justice expressed his surprise that Rao was in fact suggesting that the Government need not focus and spend on higher education. Rao’s reference to Article 21A mandate did not help. The CJ said: “There are many Constitutional mandates. It is a question of priorities by the Government." Justice Bhandari asked: “If we say Article 21A is to get priority, then are you suggesting that until the goal of Article 21A is achieved, no additional funds can be spent on higher education?" Justice Thakker added: “You cannot correlate”.

Justice Pasayat tried to mollify the criticism of his brother Judges, by asking Rao whether according to him, educational backwardness would disappear with the completion of school education, and therefore, the question of addressing educational backwardness in higher education does not arise. Justice Thakker suggested: “Article 15 has no application at all, because according to you, they are in advanced stage (in higher education)”.

Rao then suggested that educational backwardness can be removed within a time frame. He said there is need for a special package for backward class citizens, to address their educational backwardness.

Then followed the CJI’s retort to Rao: “IITs, IIMs, - should they be closed down? Was the Government wrong in starting IITs, and IIMs, and AIIMS? This is something very strange. Thousands of applications are submitted for admission to these institutions. These institutions have produced many outstanding scientists and engineers."

Rao replied that these institutions should go on. "I am on the point of reservations", he said. He added it is not his case that higher education does not require investment. Those who completed 10+2 belong to creamy layer among the educationally backward; therefore, they must be denied quota. Once you complete +2, you enter the level playing field, he explained.

Rao continued: Mr.Parasaran suggested that Article 19(1)(g) can be abridged, if not abrogated. The Court cannot accept it.
Justice Thakker: Article 19(1)(g) must be read with Article 19(2) to 19(6).
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