The Chhattisgarh High Court on Monday struck down the State government’s decision to reserve 58% seats for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes in recruitment and entrance examinations, holding that reservation above the 50% ceiling is “unconstitutional”.
Disposing of a bunch of writ petitions, the first of which was filed 10 years ago, a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice A.K. Goswami and Justice P.P. Sahu cancelled the reservation implemented by the State in 2012.
“On the basis of the materials on record, we are of the opinion that no special case is made out for breaching the reservation ceiling of 50% while increasing the reservation to 58%,” said the court order.
‘No exceptional situation’
“Failure to secure a job or a seat in an educational institution by a reserve category candidate competing with candidates belonging to general category cannot be construed as an exceptional circumstance,” the court said.
Advocate Mateen Siddiqui, who represented some of the petitioners, said his clients had challenged the provisions of Chhattisgarh Public Service (Reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes & Other Backward Classes) Amendment Act, 2011.
This was an amendment to the 1994 reservation Act of erstwhile Madhya Pradesh, which had kept the ceiling of SC, ST, OBC quota at 50%. The State of Chhattisgarh was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000.
“The Chhattisgarh High Court order will have a prospective effect, that is, no recruitment or admission made during the past 10 years will be cancelled. We are waiting for the detailed court order to comment further,” Mr. Siddiqui told The Hindu on Monday evening.
The court decision evoked sharp reactions from the ruling Congress, which said the amendment was made “callously” by the then BJP government under the leadership of Raman Singh.
“The Raman Singh government could not discharge its responsibility properly. Even after the petition was filed in the High Court against 58% reservation, the Raman Singh government did not correctly present the specific reasons for which the quota was increased,” said Congress’ media in charge Sushil Anand Shukla.
Hitting back at these allegations, Mr. Singh said it was the Congress that had failed to present the State’s case properly in the court.
Legal experts such as Bilaspur-based senior lawyer Sudiep Shrivastava believe that reducing the number of reserved seats will be a bigger perception challenge for the government of the day. “Those in Opposition today can claim that there was no stay on the quota as long as they were in power,” he said.
Numerically, between them, the SC (13%) and the OBC (47%) communities comprise 60% of the votes, while the Scheduled Tribes comprise another 30%.
The Chhattisgarh government had earlier this month announced the formation of separate advisory councils for the SCs and the OBCs in the State. The STs already have a separate advisory council in Chhattisgarh.