US SC to consider ‘reservations’ affecting Indian-Americans
The US Supreme Court has decided to consider a challenge to the affirmative action programmes at universities, reopening an issue that adversely affects Indian-American students
NEW YORK: The US Supreme Court has decided to consider a challenge to the affirmative action programmes at universities reopening an issue that adversely affects Indian-American students. The court said in January that it will take up the appeal against rulings by lower federal courts upholding the affirmative action programmes of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC).
The affirmative action programmes virtually have effects similar to reservations in Indian institutions, except that here Indian-Americans and other Asians are considered the privileged groups and have to perform to higher standards for admission than all the others.
The case was brought by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), which was joined by the Global Organization of Persons of Indian Origin, National Federation of Indian-American Associations, American Society of Engineers of India Origin, and BIT Sindri Alumni Association of North India in bringing the original case against Harvard.
SFFA asserted that the private Harvard University’s affirmative action programme violates a 1964 civil rights law because it receives federal funds and the state government-run UNC violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of laws for all. The appeal is scheduled to be taken up in the next session of the Supreme Court starting in October with the verdict likely towards the middle of next year. Previously the Supreme Court has narrowly upheld the legality of affirmative action programmes, but its composition has taken distinctive rightward turn under former President Donald Trump and supporters of affirmative action programmes fear it could rule against them, setting back African Americans and Latinos who have suffered centuries of discrimination.
The case plays into the political divide in the nation. Trump’s administration had backed the SFFA in the lower courts asserting that there was evidence “that Harvard’s process has repeatedly penalized one particular racial group: Asian Americans” and that it “concedes that eliminating consideration of race would increase Asian-American admissions”. But under President Joe Biden the federal government has made a U-turn and opposed SFFA’s appeal. Asking the court to reject the appeal, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said in her brief that Harvard’s use of race was “narrowly tailored” and met constitutional standards.