New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday junked the Centre’s appeal against an Allahabad High Court ruling which had held that ‘department’ and not ‘university’ will be treated as a unit for deciding quota in the recruitment of teachers in UGC-funded higher education institutions, reports News 18. This, the channel said, may lead to a drastic cut in reserved posts for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs across central universities.

A bench headed by Justice Uday U Lalit rejected the appeal moved by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the UGC against the 2017-judgment of the Allahabad High Court.  The Bench termed the HC judgment as “logical” and disapproved of bunching of posts in a university, based on similar qualifications, pay scales and status.

“How can the post of professor of Anatomy be compared with the professor of Geography? Are you clubbing oranges with apples?” questioned the bench, adding that since these teaching posts filled in different departments were not inter-changeable, the university cannot be treated as a unit for declaring the reserved posts, News 18 reports.

Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain tried to persuade the bench that treating department as a unit for granting reservations will lead to various anomalies and may not serve the constitutional mandate for giving quota but the court remained unimpressed. It further refused to keep the questions of law open or make any clarification on the issue. With the dismissal of the appeal filed by the central government, it is expected that the stalemate over filling up of approximately 35 percent vacancies in the central universities will get over.

The recruitment to about 6,000 vacancies in central universities have been on hold because of the pendency of the matter in the Supreme Court. Based on the Allahabad HC judgment, the UGC issued an order in March 2018, reverting to the pre-2006 procedure of treating department as a unit. But the subsequent recruitments showed that about two-thirds of the total recruitment went to unreserved or general category candidates while the posts for reserved classes went down severely.

It led to protests from various rights groups and some of the parties raised it in Parliament as well. Following the uproar, the HRD ministry asked the UGC to put the recruitment on hold until the appeal in the Supreme Court was decided. But this communication was stayed by the Allahabad High Court in December 2018, noting that pendency of a matter in the apex court cannot be a ground not to follow the judgment passed by the High Court more than a year ago.

The universities, however, still waited for the final word from the Supreme Court, which has now dismissed the appeal against the HC judgment, making it obligatory upon universities to make recruitments by treating department as a unit