68 pc SC/ST quota in K'taka stays

Apex court holds reservation valid for another year, tells State to revisit the issue

However, the Apex Court disposed of the petitions pending before it for the past 15 years, directing the state government to “revisit” the reservation issue.

 A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar said, “The writ petition is disposed of with a direction to the state government to revisit the reservation issue. The state government is so advised to fix the quantum of reservation beyond 50 percent limit, if it has quantifiable data to support it.

The bench said during the pendancy of the petition since 1994, the article 15, 16 had been amended by way of article 81 and 82. The interim order of November 11, 1994 on the provision of 68 percent reservation will continue for another one year, the court added.

In the intervening period, various pronouncements were made by the Supreme Court, including the judgments in Nagaraj, Ashok Thakur and Indira Shawney cases. The state government has been asked to collect the data on the basis of 3 judgments and pass a law on the issue of reservation.

The apex Court disposed of three pending petitions - S V Joshi, Shamaji Raghunath Rohidekar and K P Surendranath against Karnataka on the order issued by the state government on December 12, 1986 with the direction to reserve 68 percent for the backward communities.

Case of Tamil Nadu

On the constitutional validity of the Tamil Nadu law providing for 69 per cent reservation for Backward Classes, Most Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in jobs and educational institutions the apex Court said if the state has to exceed the 50 per cent limit, the state government will have to produce the quantifiable data before the State Backward Commission.

A nine-Judge bench of the apex court hearing a batch of petitions in 2007 challenging the inclusion of several State legislations under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, including the Tamil Nadu Reservation Act enacted in 1993, (to keep them beyond judicial review) had held that there could not be blanket immunity for laws from judicial review.

The court, after examining the scope and powers of Parliament to enact laws and include them in the Ninth Schedule, had held that the power of judicial review could not be taken away merely by putting a law under the Ninth Schedule.

The court had held that all such laws included in the Ninth Schedule after 1973, would be tested individually on the touchstone of violation of Fundamental Rights or violation of the basic structure doctrine.

Tamil Nadu had included the Act in 9th schedule to escape the review by the judiciary.
It was argued that since the Supreme Court had put a cap of 50 per cent reservation in the Mandal case judgment, the total reservation should not exceed that limit.

Justifying the 69 per cent quota, the TN government citing historical reasons pointing out that the reservation was fixed at 68 per cent in 1981 and it was made 69 per cent in 1990.

According to the 1991 census, the percentage of SCs/STs and Backward Classes in relation to the total population of the State was 88 per cent.

TN maintained that the cap of 50 per cent quota in the Mandal case judgment would not apply to Tamil Nadu as an exception had been provided in peculiar facts and circumstances in the same judgment.

“Prescribing a rigid 50 per cent ceiling in the matter of reservations would be contrary to the very spirit of the Constitution and the objectives sought to be achieved by the Constitution,” it said.

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