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Updated on: Monday, November 01, 2021, 09:56 PM IST

FPJ Legal: Vanniyar quota unconstitutional, says Madras HC; judges cite SC order in Maratha reservation case

Madras High Court |

Madras High Court |

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Chennai: The Madras High Court on Monday held as unconstitutional the Tamil Nadu Government’s legislation to provide 10.5% internal reservation for members of the Vanniyar community within the 20% quota for Most Backward Classes (MBCs) in higher education and government jobs.

“It is settled position of law that caste alone cannot be the basis for any classification and the Honourable Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney judgment makes it very clear that caste alone cannot be a criteria to make reservation, because Articles 16(1), 16(2) and 16(4) are facet of Article 14 of the Constitution of India and when there is a specific bar to discriminate on caste under Article 16(2), the same cannot be done under Article 16(4) of the Constitution of India being same facet,” a bench of Justices M Duraiswamy and K Murali Shankar held on a batch of litigations challenging the law.

Citing the dictum laid by the Supreme Court in quashing the Maratha reservation in Maharashtra, the judges said: “We find that by virtue of 102nd Constitutional Amendment, the powers of Legislative Assembly to include and exclude Backward Class has been ousted and bestowed with Parliament of India under Article 342-A of the Constitution of India.” It is settled law that reservation is permissible only for class of citizens and not on caste basis and the impugned Act is totally in violation of the Articles 15(4), 16(4) and 14 of the Constitution of India, besides legislative incompetency.

The legislation was hurriedly passed by the previous AIADMK Government on the last day of the Assembly session barely hours before the Election Commission notified the schedule for the Tamil Nadu general elections. The same day then Governor Banwarilal Purohit had granted approval for the Bill and the Act was notified. The Vanniyar reservation was a demand of the AIADMK’s key ally PMK, which largely represents the community that is found in significant numbers in north and western Tamil Nadu.

“The impugned Act, viz., ‘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’ [Act 8 of 2021] is declared as ultra vires the provisions of the Constitution of India and accordingly, the same is quashed,” the bench said.

“We are of the opinion that the Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act, 2018, came into existence on 11.08.2018 and the Constitution (105th Amendment) Act, 2021, was enacted on 19.08.2021 and whereas the impugned Act 8 of 2021 came to be enacted on 26.02.2021 and therefore, we hold that as on the date of enactment of the impugned Act, the State Legislature has no power to enact such legislation and accordingly, the State Legislature has no competency to pass the impugned Act,” they added.

The court was of the view that the Constitutional scheme warrants that the Governor ought to have reserved the Bill for the Assent of the President of India under Article 31-C of the Constitution of India.

The judges pointed out that every time, the Act in the Ninth Schedule was amended and the Amendment Acts have also been placed in the Ninth Schedule through Constitutional Amendment Acts under Article 368 of the Constitution of India. “Therefore, the enactments similar to the impugned Act, without amending the Act under the Ninth Schedule, is unconstitutional,” the order said.

According to the court, the micro classification of Vanniyars is wholly arbitrary, because absolutely there is no acceptable reason for the division. “There is no material or data to differentiate MBC(V) from other MBC as a separate class,” it pointed out.

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Published on: Monday, November 01, 2021, 09:56 PM IST
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