The Chhattisgarh High Court on Monday quashed the state government’s decision to reserve 58% of seats for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes in recruitment and entrance exams, ruling that reserving above the 50% cap was “unconstitutional.”
After a series of written petitions, the first of which was filed 10 years ago, a departmental bench consisting of Chief Justice AK Goswami and Justice PP Sahu lifted the reservation introduced by the state in 2012.
“Based on the file situation, we are of the opinion that there is no special case for exceeding the upper reservation limit of 50% while at the same time increasing the reservation to 58%,” says the court order.
“No exceptional situation”
“Failure to obtain a position or seat in an educational institution by a candidate in the reserve category who is competing with candidates in the general category cannot be construed as an exceptional circumstance,” the court said.
Attorney Mateen Siddiqui, representing some of the petitioners, said his clients had challenged the provisions of the Chhattisgarh Public Service (Reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes & Other Backward Classes) Amendment Act 2011.
This was an amendment to the 1994 Reservations Act of the former Madhya Pradesh which had left the SC, ST and OBC quota cap at 50%. The state of Chhattisgarh was cut out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000.
“The Chhattisgarh High Court order will have prospective effect, meaning no recruitment or admissions made in the last 10 years will be cancelled. We are awaiting the detailed court order to make further comments,” Mr Siddiqui said The Hindu on Monday evening.
The court decision provoked sharp reactions from the ruling Congress, which said the change was made “insensitively” by the then BJP government led by Raman Singh.
“Raman Singh’s government failed to adequately discharge its responsibilities. Even after the petition against the 58% reservation was lodged with the Supreme Court, Raman Singh’s government has failed to properly state the specific reasons for increasing the quota,” said Congress Media Officer Sushil Anand Shukla.
Mr Singh countered those allegations, saying it was Congress that failed to properly present the state’s case in court.
Legal experts like Bilaspur-based senior attorney Sudiep Shrivastava believe reducing the number of reserved seats will pose a greater perception challenge for today’s government. “Today’s oppositionists can claim that as long as they were in power, there was no staying on the quota,” he said.
Numerically, the SC (13%) and OBC (47%) communities account for 60% of the vote, while the Scheduled Tribes account for another 30%.
The Chhattisgarh Government earlier this month announced the formation of separate advisory councils for the SCs and the OBCs in the state. The STs already have their own advisory council in Chhattisgarh.