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Reservations in Bihar: Patna HC scraps 65% quota for backward classes, EBCs, SCs/STs

The order was passed by the division bench headed by Chief Justice of Patna High Court K Vinod Chandran on a batch of writ petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the legislation brought in by the Nitish Kumar regime in Nov 2023.
Last Updated : 20 June 2024, 06:47 IST

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Patna: In a landmark judgment that could have wide political ramifications, the Patna High Court on Thursday set aside the Bihar government’s notification that had raised the reservation in government jobs and educational institutions from 50 per cent to 65 per cent.

The order was passed by the division bench headed by Chief Justice of Patna High Court K Vinod Chandran on a batch of writ petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the legislation brought in by the Nitish Kumar regime in Nov 2023.

Last year, based on the findings of the caste survey by the Bihar government, Nitish proposed increasing the quota cap to 75 per cent from the existing 60 per cent, which included the 10 per cent quota for economically weaker sections (EWS) from upper castes.

Accordingly, in November 2023, two bills — the Bihar Reservation of Vacancies in Posts and Services (for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes) Amendment Bill 2023 and the Bihar (in admission in educational institutions) Reservation Bill 2023 — were introduced in the Assembly and unanimously passed.

The revised percentage increased the reservation for SCs to 20 per cent, STs to 2 per cent, EBCs to 25 per cent and OBCs to 18 per cent. Together, it amounted to 65 per cent from the earlier 50 per cent quota cap. Besides, the proposal continued with the additional 10 per cent for EWS, thereby taking the total quota to 75 per cent from the previous 60 per cent.

Once Bihar Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar gave his assent to the two bills and the notification for quota hike was issued, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the Patna High Court on November 27, 2023, challenging the decision of the Nitish regime to hike reservation quota.

Incidentally, Nitish was then running his government with the support of the RJD, Congress and the Left, but also had the support of the BJP on this delicate issue.

"The amendments are violative of the Supreme Court verdict which capped the reservation ceiling at 50 per cent," the petitioners said in the PIL and added that the quota hike “was discriminatory in nature and violated fundamental rights to equality".

After hearing the petitioners and the Bihar government, the HC reserved its order in March 2024.

On Thursday, the HC pronounced its verdict and struck down the government notification of the quota hike.

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Published 20 June 2024, 06:47 IST

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