Civil Appeal No. 2600 of 2022
Pattali Makkal Katchi vs. A. Mayilerumperumal & Ors
DATE OF JUDGEMENT:
31st March, 2022
Justice L Nageswara Rao and B. R. Gavai
Pattali Makkal Katchi (Petitioner)
A. Mayilerumperumal & Ors (Respondent)
The Supreme Court in this case has held that, Denotified Communities Act, 2021 of Tamil Nadu 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 was unconstitutional.
- Article 14 of the Constitution of India - Provides for equality before law.
- Article 15 of the Constitution of India - Prohibits discrimination by the State.
- Article 16 of the Constitution of India - Provides for equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
- The Chairman of the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes Commission suggested in 2012 that the 20% reservation be divided as follows:
i) 10.5 percent for Vanniyars;
ii) 7 percent for 68 DNC and 25 other MBC castes (total 93 castes); and
iii) 2.5 percent for 22 other MBC castes.
A separate reservation for the Vanniyar Caste was also mooted by Justice M.S. Janarthanam. As a result, the Government made a particular request to the Commission to sub-categorize the Most Backward Classes.
- In order to administrate reservation in Tamil Nadu, the State Government established the "Commission for collecting of quantifiable data on castes, groups, and Tribes of Tamil Nadu" on December 21, 2020, under the chairmanship of Justice A. Kulasekaran (Retd). Before the Commission could submit its report, the State Government approved a Bill on February 26, 2021, granting the Vanniyar Community a 10.5 percent internal reserve, which became Act No. 8 of 2021. ("2021 Act"). The Madras High Court was asked to rule on the Act's constitutionality.
- The Tamil Nadu law sub-classifying the 20% quota available to the Most Backward Classes to provide Vanniyar Community 10.5 percent reservation in educational institutions and government posts was invalidated by the Madras High Court Division Bench of Justices M. Duraiswamy and K. Murali Shankar. The High Court held, among other things, that the State lacked legislative competence in light of the Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act, 2018, which stripped state legislatures of the power to include or exclude Backward Classes and gave it to Parliament under Article 342A of the Indian Constitution. It was held that, under Article 31B, the State legislature lacked the authority to implement the challenged Act without changing the parent Act of 1994, which had received Presidential Assent and was included in the Constitution's Ninth Schedule. The petitioners' other arguments before the High Court were that reservation cannot be entirely based on caste, and that sub-classification cannot be done without quantifiable data to back it up.
- Whether sub-classification of the Most Backward Classes is permissible for receiving preference?
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE PETITIONER
- The Appellants used Chiranjit Lal Chowdhuri v. Union of India to argue that the presumption is in favour of the legitimacy of the 2021 Act, and that those who challenge it must show that constitutional norms have been clearly violated. Ajay Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar was also cited in support of the argument that the State is in the best position to determine what kind of special provision should be made in favour of a particular class, given the relevant facts and circumstances, and that legislative judgement must be given deference.
- The justification on behalf of the State was that sufficient material was gathered by the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes Commission to show that there was inadequate representation, disproportionate to the population of the Vanniakula Kshatriyas, thereby culminating in the 2021 Act, which aimed to achieve equitable distribution of reservation amongst MBCs and DNCs.
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT
- The Respondents disputed the aforementioned arguments, claiming that the classifications determined under the 2021 Act discriminate against equals. Col. A.S. Iyer v. V. Balasubramanyam was cited to support the argument that an anxious and continuous search for a basis for classification will deprive Article 14 of the equality dispensation. The difference and allocation of percentages was wholly arbitrary in the absence of any basis for treating the Vanniakula Kshatriyas differently, and thus violated Article 14.
- It was contended that it is clear from Indra Sawhney v. Union of India 1992, that sub-classification of backward classes is permissible. The respondents, on the other hand, argued that, in accordance with Indra Sawhney, backward classes can be subdivided into backward and more backward classes, but that further differentiation of MBCs is not permissible because it would amount to micro-classification, as the Madras High Court correctly held.
ANALYSIS BY THE COURT
- The feasibility calculation, which considers the percentage of the Vanniakula Kshatriyas' population to the overall population of MBCs and DNCs, was the sole factor used by Justice Janarthanam to approve internal reservation for the Vanniakula Kshatriyas. On the basis of the proportion of their population to the total population of the MBCs and DNCs combined, Justice Janarthanam ruled that other communities within the MBCs seeking internal reservation were not practicable. The Court believed that the percentage of Vanniakula Kshatriyas' population in relation to the overall population of MBCs and DNCs cannot be the primary ground for internal reservation. Although the proportion of the relevant community's population to the entire population may be one of the relevant variables in assessing adequacy, it is not the same as proportionate representation.
- The Supreme Court on the 2021 Act opined 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 violates Articles 14, 15 and 16. The Supreme Court upheld the judgement of the Madras High Court in this judgement.
- When the Vanniyar Quota Case was referred to a larger bench of the Supreme Court, it observed that sub-classification amongst backward classes is permissible. However, the internal reservation for the Vanniyars in the Most Backward Classes category was struck down on the basis of not having supporting data for it.
This decision strengthens the case for undertaking a caste survey to obtain the most up-to-date information on backwardness in the state. Earlier to the 2021 Act, the court ruled that no prior study or analysis supported the claim that the Vanniyakula Kshatriyas were more backward than the other MBCs and DNCs.
Because the community's reservation under the 2021 Act was based on "antiquated data," it appears only fair to declare that the Vanniyars' internal reservation is unlawful.
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