Observing that unequals cannot be treated as equals, the Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside an order of the Jharkhand High Court that upheld a state government notification amalgamating backward classes and most backward classes for the purpose of reservation.
"The amalgamation of two classes of people for reservation would be unreasonable as two different classes are treated similarly, which is in violation of the mandate of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, which is to treat similar similarly and to treat different differently," a Bench of Justices AR Lakshmanan and Lokeshwar Singh Panta said.
Terming it "discriminatory and arbitrary, the apex court quashed the August 16, 2003 order of the state government.
It asked the state to set up within three months an expert committee headed by a retired high court judge or a body as has been provided for in the Mandal commission's case to inquire into the recommendations/complaints made over under-inclusion and non-inclusion into the BC and MBC categories, and make binding recommendations.
The order came on an appeal filed by Atyant Pichhara Barg Chhatra Snagh and others challenging a Division Bench order of the Jharkhand High Court upholding the state government's decision to amalgamate BCs and MBCs and reduce reservation from 9 per cent and 18 per cent respectively to 14 per cent only for the purpose of admission in professional educational institutions.
Holding that it was a policy matter, the high court had said that the courts cannot direct the State to make a sub-categorisation of a reserved category.
However, the Supreme Court said "there are no materials or empirical date to indicate that the circumstances had been changed and the State has not undertaken any study, research or work.”
“In such circumstances, to merely suggest that the Council of Ministers had applied their minds and had reached a decision, is arbitrary and unreasonable."
The court pointed out that in the Mandal Commission's case it was noted that "there is no constitutional bar to a state categorising the backward classes as backward and more backward classes."
It also emphasised that actions of the state government, while including or excluding classes to the list, was subject to judicial review.