NEW DELHI: Merit breached the iron wall of quota on Monday as the Supreme Court permitted a
Madhya Pradesh OBC woman
, who topped the merit list, to join as an assistant professor in geography from posts earmarked for unreserved category women candidates.
Madhya Pradesh sets aside 33% of all posts in government jobs, except those in
the forest department
, for women. This is sub-divided into four categories — unreserved, SC, ST and OBC. For the 84 posts advertised for assistant professors, 26 were reserved for women candidates. Of these, 12 were for unreserved, four for SCs and six each for STs and OBCs.
Sadhna Singh Dangi, who competed as an OBC candidate, topped the merit list and the government appointed her in the unreserved category since she performed better than all unreserved category candidates. She had not sought eligibility on the basis of caste quota. One Pinki Asati and many others challenged this decision before the
High Court, which on April 29 quashed the list of selected candidates and said it was impermissible to draft in an OBC candidate in the unreserved category and appoint her to a post earmarked for the latter.
bench of the HC ruled that in a case of compartmentalised reservation, no migration from reserved to unreserved category was permissible even if the candidate belonging to reserved category had not availed any benefit of reservation for securing eligibility and had got a seat in the unreserved category solely on merit.
Further strengthening compartmentalised reservation, the HC had said, "A candidate not falling in the merit list of unreserved category cannot be brought from any other category belonging to OBC, SC or ST in order to accommodate against horizontal quota of unreserved women category." The HC had said meritorious OBC category women candidates would be accommodated against the six posts of assistant professors available for that category and they could not eat into the 12 unreserved category posts.
A Supreme Court bench of Justices U U Lalit, M M Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran entertained Dangi’s appeal and stayed the HC order, paving the way for her and other meritorious reserved category candidates to be appointed as assistant professors in posts earmarked for the unreserved category.
Appearing for her, senior advocate P S Patwalia said the HC decision was unsustainable as the MP government has stipulated that if a reserved category candidate has not availed any relaxation to acquire eligibility and competed on merit, then she shall be selected under vacancies for unreserved category.
The state's additional advocate general
supported the appeal as the MP government had clarified before the HC that 'unreserved category' was not a reservation but open for all categories of candidates, who acquired position on the basis of merit. The bench allowed intervention of unreserved category students after hearing senior advocates Krishnan Venugopal and S K Rungta.
The SC asked the parties to file their responses to the appeal in two weeks and posted it for hearing after four weeks.