The Supreme Court has refused to allow for now the Centre's attempts to create a 4.5 per cent sub-quota for minorities in central educational institutions. The quota, carved out of the 27 per cent quota for OBCs, was struck down by the Andhra Pradesh High Court last week.
The Supreme Court has admitted the Centre's petition against that verdict, but has asked for details on how the government arrived at the figure of 4.5%. The judges have also asked "how many religious minorities will fall in the OBC category? And how many in the sub-class? That is what we want answered."
In its verdict, the Andhra Pradesh High Court had said that quotas based on religious grounds are not permitted by the Constitution. The court had also rebuked the Centre for its "casual" approach in deciding the quota.
What happens in this case will immediately affect 325 students who have qualified for the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) under the 4.5% sub-quota.
The government had announced the 4.5% sub-quota in central educational institutions and jobs in December, just before five states including Uttar Pradesh voted for their next government.
Law Minister Salman Khurshid has said that it is incorrect to conclude that the sub-quota was based on religious grounds. He said it was a form of affirmative action and that it provides reservation based on the backwardness of a minority caste and not on the basis of its religion.