SC refuses to stay TN law on quota for Vanniyars

The Supreme Court on Friday declined to stay Tamil Nadu’s law, passed in February, creating a 10
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Published on Jul 03, 2021 12:26 AM IST
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ByAbraham Thomas, New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Friday declined to stay Tamil Nadu’s law, passed in February, creating a 10.5% sub-quota for the Vanniyar community within the 20% reservation for Most Backward Classes (MBCs) but later agreed to issue notice to the Tamil Nadu government and keep the petition pending along with others filed against the same law.

A bench of justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat observed that petitions against the law were already being considered by the Madras high court and gave the petitioner, S Sandeep Kumar, the option to approach the high court. Senior lawyer S Nagamuthu, however, urged the court to issue notice to the state government and keep the petition pending in the top court along with other similar petitions.

The Tamil Nadu assembly passed the law on February 26, hours before the model code of conduct kicken in with the Election Commission’s announcement of the poll schedule for the state elections. In the assembly, the then chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami cited demands for the reservation by Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), a key AIADMK ally that counts the Vanniyar community as its core vote bank.

The law provides internal reservation within the 20% MBC quota that benefits the Vanniyakula Kshatriya community most as it allocated 10.5% quota to them. The remaining share of 9.5% is apportioned between so-called Denotified Communities and other MBCs.

Denotified Communities are those that once stood notified under the Criminal Tribes Acts during the pre-Independence period but were “denotified” after the government repealed the Acts in 1952.

Nagamuthu questioned the validity of the law, arguing that it was passed for political considerations in a hurried manner without any discussion and without waiting for the report of a one-man judicial committee headed by Justice (retd) A Kulasekaran set up on December 21, 2020, to gather quantifiable data on the identified castes and tribes in the state.

The petition filed through advocate P Sriram said the law was passed without any quantifiable data relating to social and educational backwardness of the Vanniyakula Kshatriyas .

Nagamuthu told the top court that the immediate implication was that reservation benefits have been cornered by one community though 122 communities are classified MBCs, He said the law was passed on the assumption that the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes Commission made a recommendation for a separate quota for Vanniyakula Kshatriya community.

The petition said the commission hasn’t made any such recommendation and the outgoing government, which pushed the law through the assembly, merely cited a letter written by Justice (Retd) MS Janardhanan, chairman of the commission in his individual capacity. The commission had seven other members.

The petition also questioned the timing and intent of the law. “The bill is politically motivated and to please Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), which is a splinter group of Vanniyakula Kshatriya community,” it said.

In addition to the 20% MBC reservation, Tamil Nadu has allocated quota benefits to 30% among other backward classes (OBC), 18% to Scheduled Castes and 1% to Scheduled Tribes. The 1993 law, which allowed Tamil Nadu to continue with 69% reservation ( first instituted in 1990; it was 68% since 1980; and 49% before that) , thereby exceeding the 50% cap on reservation fixed by the Supreme Court in 1992, is also under challenge before the top court, which said it would wait till a Constitution bench decides on the Maratha quota issue, the validity of the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act of 2018 that made reservations in the state touch 65%. However, Tamil Nadu’s 1993 law was brought under the Ninth Schedule of Constitution, giving it protection from “any judgement, decree, or order of court...”.

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