The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld an Allahabad High Court ruling that reservation in faculty posts in universities should be applied department-wise and not by taking the total number of teaching positions across the departments, reported The Indian Express.

A bench of Justices UU Lalit and Indira Banerjee rejected the Centre’s Special Leave Petition that challenged the April 7, 2017, order of the Allahabad High Court. In response to the High Court order, the University Grants Commission in March 2018 announced a new policy, which mandated colleges and universities to reserve positions by department, or subject in the case of colleges.

The Supreme Court bench termed the High Court judgement logical, News18 reported. “How can the post of professor of Anatomy be compared with the professor of Geography?” the bench asked. “Are you clubbing oranges with apples?” The bench said that since teaching posts in different departments were not inter-changeable, the university cannot be treated as a unit while reserving posts.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said that calculating vacancies department-wise would reduce the number of seats in reserved category and defeat the purpose of the reservation policy, according to the Hindustan Times. Mehta said the state was obliged to make special provisions for reservation in appointments for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes if they are not adequately represented in services.

Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, arguing for those supporting the High Court order, said a Supreme Court ruling in January 2017 had upheld another Allahabad High Court verdict of April 2009, which said that “the rules of reservation and roster shall be applied college-wise and subject-wise when there are plurality of post.”

The University Grant Commission’s new policy meant that jobs for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes is reducing. Since the policy was introduced in March, only 2.5% of the 700 posts advertised by central universities were for Scheduled Castes and none for Scheduled Tribes.

BJP is shedding crocodile tears on Dalit matters: Congress

The Congress hailed the verdict and alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party government was shedding “crocodile tears” on Dalit matters. “The roster system introduced by the Congress had ensured that the university faculty reflected the country’s demography and the diversity of the nation,” the party said in a statement. “It was affirmative action in academia and resulted in bringing the Dalit related issues on the academic platform.”

The Opposition party accused the Modi government of not wanting Dalits to be educated. “Congress Party’s Scheduled Caste Department condemns Modi-led government for purposefully putting up weak petitions in the court so that the case is lost,” it added.

The party also demanded that the Centre bring an ordinance and a bill in the upcoming Budget Session of Parliament on the matter.