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Supreme Court upholds Madras HC order striking down 10.5 pc Vanniyar quota

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The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the Madras High Court order on not providing 10.5 percent reservation to the Vanniyar caste in Private Educational Institutions and appointments or posts in the services under the state within the Reservation for the Most Backward Classes and Denotified Communities Act, 2021.

A Bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Justice BR Gavai heard a plea filed by the State of Tamil Nadu challenging a judgement by the High Court of Madras, which struck down the law. It held,

“We are of the opinion that there is no basis to treat Vanniyar as a separate group compared to others. Thus, the 2021 Act is ultra vires Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.”

The Court further held,

“State cannot be restricted to implement internal reservation on the issue of Presidential assent. Caste can be the basis of internal reservation, but it cannot be the sole basis.”

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The law under challenge, the Tamil Nadu Special Reservation of seats in educational Institutions including Private Educational Institutions and appointments or posts in the services under the State within the Reservation for the Most Backward Classes and Denotified Communities Act, 2021, provided an internal reservation of 10.5 percent for the Vanniyar community within the 20 per cent quota for all Most Backward Classes (MBCs) and Denotified Communities (DNCs).

The special law was purportedly brought to meet the demand of Vanniyars, a caste of MBC, based on claims that they are a numerically predominant community, but were unable to compete with the other communities in the MBC/DNC category.

A Division Bench of the Madras High Court had, however, ruled on November 1 that the law was passed without any quantifiable data on the socio-educational status of the Vanniyars in the services and there was no objective criteria for sub-classifying them.

“The enactment has been passed by the State without any quantifiable data on population, socio-educational status and representation of the backward classes in the services and the sub-classification done by virtue of the impugned Act solely based on population data, in the absence of any objective criteria, is illegal in the eye of law and in violation of the Constitution of India” 

-the High Court had said.

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It had also noted that if the Vanniyar caste is given 10.5 percent reservation out of the 20 percent earmarked for MBCs, the remaining 115 MBCs will get only a 9.5 percent share.

The petitioners contended that after the insertion of the 102nd amendment to the Constitution of India, the State government has no power to identify/classify any community as backward and it is the sole domain of Parliament. Hence, the Act was argued to be in violation of Articles 338-B and 342-A of the Constitution of India.

However, the State government, without waiting for the recommendations of the Commission, passed the Act without consultation with all the stakeholders, especially, those communities who would be affected by the Act, the petitioners argued.

Besides, it was contended that the State of Tamil Nadu granted internal reservation of 10.5 percent out of 20 percent for the Vanniyar community alone. This is over 50 percent earmarked for MBC. In addition, the classification made on a particular premise of offering a larger slot to Vanniyars in MBC, is bad. There cannot be a preferential treatment from among the same class, it was submitted.

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Further, the petitions argued that without there being any census, the Government of Tamil passed a Bill for reservation for Vanniyar community 10.5 percent under MBC without considering caste wise population and there is no data available with the State government to invoke the enabling provisions in the Constitution to provide internal reservation.

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