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Supreme Court adjourns plea challenging Madras High Court order on Vanniyar quota

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned a petition challenging the Madras High Court order that had declared 10.5 percent special internal reservation to Vanniyars, a backward community (MBC), and their sub-castes in government jobs and educational institutions as violation of Constitution of India.

A Bench of Justice L. Nageshwar Rao & Justice B.R Gavai has listed the matter for further hearing on Tuesday.

Today, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is the lead counsel for state of Tamil Nadu in the batch of connected matters, submitted that the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institution and Appointments or Posts in the Services Under the State) Act, has stood the test of time and gives a clear mandate and charter for MBC reservation. He further submitted that the 1994 Act, which is protected by the 9th Schedule of the Indian Constitution clearly provides for sub-classifications.

Singhvi argued that Section 7 of the 1994 Act was forward-looking and states:

(1) The Government may, in the public interest, by order, direct the competent authority to make an enquiry or to take appropriate proceedings under this Act in any case specified in the order, and the competent authority shall report to the Government the result of the enquiry made or the proceedings taken by him within such period as may be prescribed.

(2) On receipt of the report from the competent authority under sub-section (1), the Government shall give such direction as they deem fit and such direction shall be final and binding.

Singhvi argued that it was irrelevant if the act was promulgated by an enactment or notification, what matters is, if it is de hors the Indian Constitution, where the government has usurped power that it was not entitled to.

Senior Advocate CS Vaidyanathan appearing for the state of Tamil Nadu in one of the connected cases submitted that the creation of sub-classes and provision of reservations for those sub-classes is not contrary to the 1994 Act.

Vaidyanathan argued that according to the last available census of 1983 ‘Vanniyars’ constitute more than 13% of the population of the state, the fact that Vanniyars are only taking 10.5 should make others happy rather than opposing the same.

Another Advocate appearing on the behalf of Tamil Nadu submitted that no community can claim that ‘Vanniyars’ are not backward, they contend that Vanniyar are given preferential treatment. According to Vaidyanathan no community share the plight of Vanniyars. He further contended that the reservations were made on the basis of quantifiable data acquired through surveys.

The incumbent AIADMK Government had passed the Vanniyar Reservation Act in February, barely an hour before the model code of conduct came into effect for the assembly polls in April. Subsequently it was implemented once the DMK Government came to power. The Act has a provision to provide for 10.5 % for Vanniyar community out of the 20% reserved for the Most Backward classes.

The State of Tamil Nadu has provided 50% reservation to OBCs and an additional 18% to SC & ST in state government services since 1980. In Indra Sawhany Vs Union of India, wherein the Supreme Court upheld the said reservation and directed both the Central and State Governments to constitute a Permanent commission for excluding and including the Backward Classes and directed not to exceed 50% of reservation in normal case.

The Government of Tamil Nadu enacted Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institution and Appointments or Posts in the Services Under the State) Act 1993, to protect the existing 69% quota. Out of the 69% of the reservation, 20% was reserved for the Most Backward people in the educational institutions and in the employment.

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