- The Centre has told the Supreme Court that it has no role in the choices made by the Tamil Nadu government with regard to the provision of reservation for specific castes or communities in state government jobs and admissions.
Issue over 69%
- The Centre was responding to a petition challenging the constitutionality of the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, SCs and STs Act of 1993, which provides 69% reservation in the State.
- The petitioner contends that the TN has acted “outside its competence” by identifying and classifying socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs).
- It is too far in excess of the 50% limit on quota laid down by a nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in its judgment in the Indira Sawhney Case (1992).
Indra Sawhney vs Union of India and M Nagraj case:
- In its landmark 1992 decision in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India, the Supreme Court had held that reservations under Article 16(4) could only be provided at the time of entry into government service but not in matters of promotion.
- It added that the principle would operate only prospectively and not affect promotions already made and that reservation already provided in promotions shall continue in operation for a period of five years from the date of the judgment. It also ruled that the creamy layer can be and must be excluded.
- On June 17, 1995, Parliament, acting in its constituent capacity, adopted the seventy-seventh amendment by which clause (4A) was inserted into Article 16 to enable reservation to be made in promotion for SCs and STs. The validity of the seventy-seventh and eighty-fifth amendments to the Constitution and of the legislation enacted in pursuance of those amendments was challenged before the Supreme Court in the Nagaraj case.
- Upholding the validity of Article 16 (4A), the court then said that it is an enabling provision. “The State is not bound to make reservation for the SCs and STs in promotions. But, if it seeks to do so, it must collect quantifiable data on three facets — the backwardness of the class; the inadequacy of the representation of that class in public employment; and the general efficiency of service as mandated by Article 335 would not be affected”.
- The court ruled that the constitutional amendments do not abrogate the fundamentals of equality.
Indira Sawhney Case
- In the famous Mandal case (Indra Sawhney Case, 1992), the scope and extent of Article 16(4), which provides for reservation of jobs in favour of backward classes, has been examined thoroughly by the Supreme Court.
- Though the Court has rejected the additional reservation of 10% for poorer sections of higher castes, it upheld the constitutional validity of a 27% reservation for the OBCs with certain conditions.
- The advanced sections among the OBCs (the creamy layer) should be excluded from the list of beneficiaries of reservation.
- No reservation in promotions; reservation should be confined to initial appointments only. Any existing reservation in promotions can continue for five years only (i.e., upto 1997).
- The total reserved quota should not exceed 50% except in some extraordinary situations. This rule should be applied every year.
- The ‘carry forward rule’ in case of unfilled (backlog) vacancies is valid. But it should not violate the 50% rule.
What did the Centre say in the TN case?
- The inclusion or exclusion of any caste/community in the State List of SEBCs is the subject matter of the State government, and the Government of India has no role in the matter.
- It referred to the Constitution (102 Amendment) Act of 2018, which details the difference in the procedure for inclusion or exclusion of castes and communities in the State List for SEBCs and the Central List.