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No rhyme or reason for 100% reservation: SC

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    29th Apr, 2020

The Supreme Court has quashed a January 2000 order of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh that provided 100 per cent reservation to Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates for the post of teachers in schools in the scheduled areas.

Context

The Supreme Court has quashed a January 2000 order of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh that provided 100 per cent reservation to Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates for the post of teachers in schools in the scheduled areas.

Background:

  • In November 1986, the then Governor of Andhra Pradesh had also issued an order under the same Schedule of the Constitution, directing that the posts of teachers in educational institutions in scheduled tribe areas be reserved for Scheduled Tribes only.
  • The order was quashed by the Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunal in 1989. A challenge to the tribunal’s order in the high court was later withdrawn by the government.
  • However, in January 2000, the state government issued another order reserving 100 percent teacher posts in schools in scheduled areas, for ST candidates. Out of these, about 33 percent seats were reserved for women.
  • The government order said the reservation was “to promote educational development of Tribals, to solve the phenomenal absenteeism of Teachers in the Schools situated in Scheduled Areas and with a view to protect the interests of local tribals”.
  • This order was set aside by the Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunal, but later upheld by the Andhra Pradesh High Court.
  • The Supreme Court was now hearing appeals against this order.
  • The five-judge bench took note of the fact that the state government issued the 100 percent reservation order despite its earlier order having been set aside. It then validated the apprehension of the petitioners that the state government “may again by way of misadventure, resort to similar illegal exercise as was done earlier”.
  • Therefore, the court agreed to not quash the appointments to the posts made since 1986 on the condition that the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana would not attempt to bring in a similar quota in the future.
  • The court also imposed Rs 5 lakh on Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments as cost of appeal.

Analysis

What are Scheduled Areas?

  • The Fifth Schedule under Article 244(1) of the Constitution of India contains provisions regarding administration of Scheduled Areas other than in Northeast India.
  • The ‘Scheduled Areas’ are defined as ‘such areas as the President may by order declare to be Scheduled Areas’ – as per paragraph 6(1) of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of India.
  • The specification of “Scheduled Areas” in relation to a State is by a notified order of the President, after consultation with the Governor of that State.
  • The President may increase the area of any Scheduled Area in a State after consultation with the Governor of that State; and make fresh orders redefining the areas which are to be Scheduled Areas in relation to any State.
  • The same applies in the case of any alteration, increase, decrease, incorporation of new areas, or rescinding any Orders relating to “Scheduled Areas”.
  • At present, Scheduled Areas have been declared in the States of Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana), Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and

What are the criterias for declaring Scheduled Area?

  • The criterias for declaring any area as a “Scheduled Area” under the Fifth Schedule are:
    • Preponderance of tribal population
    • Compactness and reasonable size of the area
    • A viable administrative entity such as a district, block or taluk
    • Economic backwardness of the area as compared to the neighbouring areas
  • These criteria are not spelt out in the Constitution of India but have become well established.

The judgement:

  • The five-judge bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and Aniruddha Bose ruled that the Governor did not have the power to provide 100 per cent reservation.
  • The Governor of then undivided Andhra Pradesh had cited Schedule V of the Constitution, which provides for administration of Scheduled Areas in states other than Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, to pass the government order.
  • The governments of both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were fighting off the legal challenge to the order.
  • In its ruling, the court held 100 per cent reservation unconstitutional as it was “discriminatory” against not just ‘open’ category candidates, but also against Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes.
  • Asserting that the state government’s “action defies logic” and that “merit cannot be denied in toto by providing reservations”, the court concluded that reservation in the case violated Articles 14 (equality before law), 15(1) (discrimination against citizens) and 16 (equal opportunity) of the Constitution.
  • There was no rhyme or reason with the State Government to resort to 100% reservation.

    100% reservation unconstitutional:

    • The Supreme Court ruled that the Governor’s powers under para 5 of Schedule V are subject to the fundamental rights guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution.
    • It then relied on several precedents, including the judgment in Indra Sawhney v. Union of India (1992), which capped reservations at 50 per cent, except in extraordinary cases.
      • In this case, “there were no such extraordinary circumstances to provide a 100 percent reservation in Scheduled Areas”.
    • The court also took note of a Presidential Order issued in 1975 under Article 371-D (Special provisions for Andhra Pradesh) of the Constitution, which said employment to people in the state were limited to only their districts.
    • The 2000 government order violated this by not allowing general category, scheduled castes and other backward classes candidates apply for these posts in their districts under the scheduled areas.

    Conclusion:

    Today, there are socially and economically advanced classes within Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. There is voice by the actually deprived persons, but they still do not permit benefits to trickle down to the needy. Thus, there is a struggle within, as to worthiness for entitlement within reserved classes of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.

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