Supreme Court strikes down 10.5% Vanniyar quota in Tamil Nadu

Updated on Mar 31, 2022 12:17 PM IST

The law granting 10.5% reservation for Vanniyars within the 20% quota for Most Backward Classes was passed in February 2021 ahead of the assembly polls

 (AFP)
(AFP)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a Tamil Nadu law providing reservation to the Vanniyar community, which is considered one of the most backward in the state, saying caste alone cannot be the exclusive basis to grant quota within a reserved category.

A bench of justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai upheld the Madras high court’s November verdict that held the quota to be unconstitutional. The state government, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), which represents the Vanniyars, and a host of individuals filed appeals against the high court order.

Justice Rao, who read out the operative part of the judgment, said the 2021 state law is ultra vires of the Constitution since there was no substantial basis to classify the Vanniyar community as a separate category.

The law granting 10.5% reservation to Vanniyars within the 20% quota for Most Backward Classes (MBCs) was passed in February 2021 ahead of the assembly polls. It was challenged before the top court and the Madras high court simultaneously.

In July 2021, the top court refused to stay the law while allowing the hearing before the high court. The high court in November ruled the 10.5% quota law passed during the previous All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)’s rule days before elections were announced was illegal because of a lack of quantifiable data to measure the “extreme backwardness” of the Vanniyars.

The state government argued MBCs were identified in Tamil Nadu as early as 1957 as equivalent to scheduled castes but without the factor of untouchability.

The Tamil Nadu Backward Classes Commission recommended an internal quota for Vanniyars up to 10.5% within the 20% quota in 2012. It gave the go-ahead for implementing the quota within the MBC quota in 2021. Representatives of MBCs and de-notified communities filed petitions in the Madras high court against it.

The Commission was asked to grant the internal reservation within the 20% quota in 2012. In 1994, a law provided 20% reservation for MBCs.

The government claimed the 1992 Indira Sawhney judgment allows states to subcategorise castes.

On December 16, the bench protected all appointments and admissions made under the law. The top court restrained the state from making any further appointments or admissions. This order was necessary as, during the pendency of the matter in the high court, nearly 75,000 students took admission availing benefits under this law.

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