Reservation Law Insider

Sakunjay Vyas

Published On: April 1, 2022 at 9:00 IST

The Two Judge Bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice BR Gavai  of the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the Madras High Court Bench that declared the Tamil Nadu Special Reservation of seats in Educational Institutions, within the Reservation for the Most Backward Classes and Denotified Communities Act, 2021, Unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that We find no reason to treat Vanniakula Kshatriyas different than any other MBCs and DNCs communities and held that the 2021 Tamil Nadu Act that provided 10.5% Reservation in Educational Institutions and government jobs for the Vanniyar community out of the 20% reservation available to the Most Backward Classes is unconstitutional.

The Two Judge Bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V. Ramasubramanian were hearing the present appeal for the correctness of the Judgment of Madras High Court that declared the Tamil Nadu Special Reservation of seats in Educational Institutions including Private Educational Institutions and of appointments or posts in the services under the State within the Reservation for the Most Backward Classes and Denotified Communities Act, 2021, unconstitutional.

That the Apex Court while determining issue of caste being the determinant for internal reservation held that the for initiating the classification process the State Government can caste as the basis but the Government has to take care of the fact that caste cannot be the sole basis for classification.

“Accordingly, while caste can be the starting point for providing internal Reservation, it is incumbent on the State Government to justify the reasonableness of the decision and demonstrate that caste is not the sole basis.” the Court said.

The High Court while deciding the present matter stated that Under Article 342A of the Constitution of India, the State legislature lacked legislative competence in view of the Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act, 2018,as a result the State legislature was denied the power to include or exclude Backward Classes. According to it, Article 31B of the Constitution denies the State Legislature not to enact the impugned Act without first amending the parent Act of 1994, which had been signed by the President and incorporated into the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.

One of the arguments the petitioners which was accepted the High Court was that reservation cannot solely be determined by caste, and sub-classification cannot be made without quantifiable evidence.

The Council for Petitioners raised these following contentions:

  1. That sub-classification was valid as held by the Supreme Court in Vasanth Kumar v. State of Karnataka.
  2. The parent Act of 1994 having general uncircumscribed Presidential assent under the Article 31C, assent would not be required again for the 2021 Act which is merely an extension of the parent Act. He argued when the State did not seek the benefit of protection of Article 31C, the High Court should not have delved into issues pertaining to the same.
  3. It was averred that the Constitution (105th Amendment) Act, 2021 was a clarification of the Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act. It clarified that the Parliament never intended to exclude the State list.
  4. A legislation enacted in exercise of power under Article 246 cannot be struck down, per se, because presidential assent under Article 31C was not sought.
  5. that the findings of the Sattanathan Commission Report, Ambashankar Commission Report, Janarthanam Commission Report and Report of 2021 Commission were based on population census and therefore had backing of quantifiable data.

The Council for respondents raised these following contentions:

  1. that after the Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act came into existence, the State could not have identified Socially and Economically Backward Classes.
  2. that since, the President alone had the power under the Constitution to identify SEBCs, the 2021 Act suffered from constitutional vires as well as incompetency.
  3. that ‘changing the basis of judicial pronouncement’ and the argument of the ‘Constitutional Amendment is clarificatory’ cannot go hand in hand.
  4. that once the Supreme Court gives its final interpretation then the only way to challenge it is by way of a review petition and not by introducing a Constitutional Amendment.
  5. That referring to the analysis of the raw data by the Ambashankar Commission. He pointed out that the Commission found that on four or five grounds the Vanniyar Community was the most advanced of the Backward Classes. 
  6. That the reliance on the Janarthanam Committee Report wherein seven out of eight members had rejected the recommendations, it was based on Ambashankar Commission Report which was rejected by the Government and that data adopted was based on 1921 caste census.

The Apex Court after hearing both the sides held that the State has the legislative competence to enact the 2021 Act.

Since the Constitution (105th Amendment) Act, 2021 is prospective, during the time of enactment, the 102nd Amendment Act, 2018 was in effect.

That the 2021 Act is permissible, given that it is just an extension of the 1994 Act, as it merely apportions the percentage of reservation for the purpose of determining the extent of reservation between MBCs and DNCs.

There is no restriction on the sub-classification of Backward Classes.

That just because the 1994 Act had received the assent of the President under A. 31C and was put in the Ninth Schedule, it cannot prohibit the State legislature from enacting a law, which is ancillary to the 1994 Act, with the approval of the Governor.

The Apex Court further dealing with the letter of Justice Thanikachalam, Chairman of the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes Commission, which forms the basis of the 2021 Act stated that the government has erred in accepting the recommendations therein for the following reasons:

(i) Recommendations have been based on the report of the Chairman of the Janarthanam Commission, which had relied on antiquated data, and there is a clear lapse on the part of Justice Thanikachalam in having readily dismissed the reservations expressed by the majority members of the Janarthanam Commission, who had observed that in the absence of updated caste-wise data, recommendations on internal reservation could not be fruitfully made.

(ii) Apart from approving the report of the Chairman of the Janarthanam Commission with respect to internal reservation for the Vanniakula Kshatriyas and making additional recommendations on the grouping of the remaining communities for specific percentages of reservation, the letter from Justice Thanikachalam does not refer to any analysis or assessment of the relative backwardness and representation of the communities within the MBCs and DNCs.

(iii) Population has been made the sole basis for recommending internal reservation for the Vanniakula Kshatriyas, which is directly in the teeth of the law laid down by this Court.

That according to the Apex Court none of the findings could become a substantial basis for considering Vanniakula Kshatriyas differentially from other communities of MBCs and DNCs.

“We are of the opinion that there is no substantial basis for classifying the Vanniakula Kshatriyas into one group to be treated differentially from the remaining 115 communities within the MBCs and DNCs, and therefore, the 2021 Act is in violation of Articles 14, 15 and 16.” the Court said.

As a result, the Apex Court upheld the judgment of the Madras High Court by stating that we have not expressed any opinion on the merits of the writ petition challenging the 1994 Act, pending consideration before this Court, or, for that matter, challenges to any other legislation which may have been referred to herein and our findings are strictly confined to the issues which have come up for our consideration in relation to the 2021 Act.

Also read: All 104 Amendments to the Constitution

What is the history of Reservation in India?

What is the Constitutional Right of Reservation?

What is the current structure of Reservation in India?

Related Post