‘Violative of equality clause’: Patna HC sets aside 65% for SC, ST & OBC | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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‘Violative of equality clause’: Patna HC sets aside 65% for SC, ST & OBC

Jun 20, 2024 04:44 PM IST

Under the new provision, based on the findings of the landmark caste-based survey in the state, the quota for SC goes up to 20%, while that of ST to 2%, EBC to 25% and OBC to 18% to take the total reservation to 65%

Patna: The Patna high court on Thursday struck down the Bihar government’s move to increase the quota for Scheduled Caste (EC), Scheduled Tribe (ST), Extremely Backward Classes (EBC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) in educational institutions and government jobs, to 65% from previous 50%.

The high court of Patna (Representative Photo)
The high court of Patna (Representative Photo)

A high court division bench headed by Chief Justice K Vinod Chandran passed the order on a bunch of petitions opposing the legislation.

“We set aside the Bihar Reservation of Vacancies in Posts and Services (for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes) Amendment Act, 2023 and the Bihar Reservation (in Admission to Educational Institutions) Amendment Act, 2023 as ultra vires the Constitution and violative of the equality clause under Articles 14, 15 and 16. The writ petitions are allowed, leaving the parties to suffer their respective costs,” said the bench of Chief Justice K Vinod Chandran and Justice Harish Kumar in its order on Thursday.

“Equality of opportunity pitted against reparations for long years of deprivation of equality, has been the subject of judicial discourse while adjudicating affirmative action, introduced by both the Central and State governments within this country. One such affirmative action exceeding the 50% limit, as prescribed by a nine-judge Constitution Bench in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India, enhancing reservation to 65% within the State of Bihar, is challenged in these batches of writ petitions,” the court said.

“On the issue relevant to the instant case, the rule of 50% limit in reservation applies to the Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which is equally applicable under Article 15(4) and Article 16(4). We see no extenuating circumstance enabling the State to breach the rule. Its increase beyond the 50% limit is bad in law based on the principles of equality emanating from the Constitution, as laid down by the wealth of precedents discussed in this judgment and which is binding on us and the State equally,” the court observed.

Referring to the Indra Sawhney case to emphasize the manner in which a methodology was evolved for the collection of data and scientific analysis of the same, the bench said that it “found no such analysis having been made of the data collected in the Caste Survey, though a massive exercise was conducted by the government to survey the entire population of the State and the data collated in a report”. 

The petitioners had contended that there was no analysis of such data. Based on the lack of proportionate representation in government employment and educational institutions, the percentage of reservation was enhanced without any scientific analysis of the data collected. 

“What worries us is no such exercise or analysis having been done by the government or the legislature in bringing about the Amendment Acts. After the collection of data, there was a frogleap into the amendment enhancing the reservations beyond 50%, which we found was again on proportionate representation in the services of the State and educational institutions, clearly not permissible under Articles 15(4) & 16(4),” it observed.

The court said to break the stranglehold hold of a few at the expense and to the detriment of the many, that reservation to backward classes was envisaged. “But merit cannot be completely effaced and sacrificed at the altar of reparations. This was the principle on which the 50% limit was laid down for reservations,” the bench said.  

The rule of 50% limit in reservation applies to the Backward Classes, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, which is equally applicable under Article 15(4) and Article 16(4). “We see no extenuating circumstance enabling the State to breach the rule. Its increase beyond the 50% limit is bad in law based on the principles of equality emanating from the Constitution, as laid down by the wealth of precedents discussed in this judgment and which is binding on us and the State equally,” the bench said.

Under the new provision, based on the findings of the landmark caste-based survey in the state, the quota for Scheduled Caste (SC) goes up to 20%, while that of Scheduled Tribe (ST) to 2%, Extremely backward classes (EBC) to 25% and Other Backward Classes (OBC) to 18% to take total reservation to 65%.

Under the new provision, based on the findings of the landmark caste-based survey in the state, the quota for SC goes up to 20%, while that of ST to 2%, EBC to 25% and OBC to 18% to take the total reservation to 65%.

The survey – the first in independent India to successfully enumerate all castes – had found that EBC, which comprises 112 castes, and OBC, formed by 30 communities, together comprised 63.13% of the state population. The SC form 19.65% and the ST, 1.68%. Upper castes were 15.52% of the state’s population. 

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