The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to examine a petition seeking an immediate stay on the implementation of a Tamil Nadu law that allows 69% quota in educational institutions and government jobs in the State.
A three-judge Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan issued notice and gave the Tamil Nadu government two weeks to file its response to a writ petition filed by a student, C.V. Gayathri, through her father, S. Vaitheeswaran, challenging the constitutionality of the Tamil Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of seats in Educational Institutions and of appointments or posts in the Services under the State) Act of 1993.
The law is protected under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution from judicial review.
Section 4 of the Act provides 30% reservation to the Backward Classes, 20% for Most Backward Classes and de-notified communities, 18% for Scheduled Castes and 1% for Scheduled Tribes. Thus, a total of 69% reservation is provided.
“Tamil Nadu Reservation Act, 1993 provides 69% reservation in admissions and in public services, which is arbitrary, unreasonable and excessive. This excessive reservation seriously affects general category students and candidates to the public services,” advocate G. Siva Bala Murugan for petitioner Gayathri said.
Indira Sawhney case
The petition said the Act was contrary to the principle laid down by a nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case, which had concluded that reservation of “50% shall be the rule; only in certain exceptional and extraordinary situations for bringing far-flung and remote areas population into mainstream, said 50% rule can be relaxed”.
“This court has held that in doing so, extreme caution has to be exercised by the State and a special case has to be made out. Tamil Nadu Reservation Act, 1993, does not pass the test mentioned in Indra Sawhney case, therefore needs to be declared unconstitutional,” the petition said.
It argued that every Act in the Ninth Schedule was open to attack on the grounds that it destroys Doctrine of Basic Structure.
“Principle of equality enshrined is one of the important facets of the doctrine of basic structure. Tamil Nadu Reservation Act, 1993, violates doctrine of Basic Structure as it violates principle of equality guaranteed under Article 14 to 16 of the Constitution,” the petition argued.
It referred to how the Maharashtra SEBC Act of 2018, which allows the percentage of reservation in Maharashtra to reach 65%, is similar to the case of Tamil Nadu, and is under challenge.
“It is submitted that courses like medical, engineering, etc, almost all professional courses, require permission of regulatory authority for increasing seats. No seats can be increased without applying to the regulatory authority within stipulated time frame. Therefore, formula of increasing seats is not practically implemented. Thereby, general category students are suffering,” the petition said.