The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Madras High Court to go ahead and decide on merits all the petitions pending before it seeking 50% reservation for OBCs in all-India quota seats for medical and dental courses in Tamil Nadu.

A Bench, led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao, held that theSaloni Kumari case, which was pending in the Supreme Court and pertained to the grant of 27% OBC quota in terms of a Central Act, cannot impede the Madras High Court from deciding on the question of the grant of 50% quota for OBCs in Tamil Nadu on the basis of a State law. The High Court will begin hearing the petitions on Friday.

The top court fully agreed with the argument made by senior advocate P. Wilson that the pendency of the Saloni Kumari case, which pertained specifically to OBC reservation in Uttar Pradesh, would not bar the Madras High Court from hearing Tamil Nadu-specific petitions.

The Tamil Nadu government, represented by senior advocate V. Giri and Additional Advocate General Balaji Srinivasan, said the High Court should decide on all the issues highlighted on merit. The State agreed with Mr. Wilson’s submission that the High Court’s decision should be made in time for admissions during the current year.

At one point during the virtual hearing, Mr. Wilson argued: “The Central government, in 2016, filed a counter-affidavit in the Saloni Kumari case, admitting that it is bound to give OBC reservations in State-surrendered seats to the all-India quota.” However, the same officer is still opposing the plea in the High Court. He argued that, therefore, the Central government is not honest in its approach and is illegally depriving tens of thousands of OBC students across the country.”

The court finally disposed of the batch of petitions — including one by Tamil Nadu — filed against a June 22 order of the Madras High Court to keep the petitions in abeyance till the apex court decided the Saloni Kumari case. Tamil Nadu, in its petition, submitted that the Madras High Court’s adjournment order came soon after the Centre convinced it that an ‘identical’ case — Saloni Kumari versus Director General of Health Services — was already pending in the Supreme Court. The High Court was told that the apex court had tentatively listed the Saloni Kumari case for July 8, and that any decision ought to follow the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case.

Tamil Nadu said the High Court had been completely misguided by the respondents, which included the Centre and the Medical Council of India. “The Saloni Kumari case pertains to reservation for OBCs under seats surrendered to All-India quota by medical colleges located in the State of Uttar Pradesh, and not to the rest of India or to Tamil Nadu,” the petition said. An adjournment had made the apex court’s grant of liberty to the State to approach the High Court redundant, the petition argued.

“It nullified the grant of such liberty because if the Supreme Court wanted the High Court to await orders in the case relating to Saloni Kumari, it would not have felt the need to grant liberty to approach the High Court,” the State reasoned and highlighted that the adjournment by the High Court may unwittingly delay the implementation of the 50% reservation for Backward Classes and lead to same constitutional illegality being perpetrated in the current academic year, for which results were announced on April 1. It warned that the admission process was in the second stage of counselling.

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