Telangana government writes to Supreme Court against 50 p.c. reservation limit for jobs, education, says quantum must be left to States to decide

Published : March 28, 2021 13:09 IST

Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao. Photo: PTI

The K. Chandrashekhar Rao government in Telangana has written to the Supreme Court asking that the 50 per cent upper limit in reservation in employment and education imposed by the court’s landmark Mandal Commission judgment, also known as the Indira Sawhney vs Union of India judgment, in November 1992, be lifted. The government, reiterating its avowed conviction that reservation is paramount in changing caste-cultural inequalities, suggested that it should be left to the respective State to determine and decide the quantum of reservation needed, depending upon the unique circumstances prevailing in each State and how the reservation evolved over time.

The State government stated: “Indira Sawhney judgment needs a relook by a larger bench of the SC to review the cap fixed in 1992 at 50 per cent reservations. This view of the SC cannot be cast in iron as there are several special circumstances in different States, like some of the north eastern states have more than 50 per cent tribal population. Secondly, the social circumstances also change over time in view of different population growth rates among different communities.” The Mandal Commission judgment had categorically said, “50% shall be the rule, only in certain exceptional and extraordinary situations for bringing far-flung and remote areas population into mainstream (the) said 50% rule can be relaxed.”

Telangana’s stand comes in response to a March 8 poser by a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court that is examining whether the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act of 2018, which provides for 12 to 13 per cent quota benefits for the Maratha community, thereby taking the reservation percentage in the State over the 50 per cent mark was enacted under “extraordinary circumstances”. The Bench after deciding not to confine the question of reservation spilling over the 50% limit to just Maharashtra, expanded the ambit of the case by making other States a party and invited them to make their stand clear on the question of whether reservation as imposed by the Mandal Commission judgment should continue to remain within the 50 per cent limit or not.

The Bench posed the question whether the 50 per cent limit needs to now be re-looked by a larger Bench of more than nine judges. Though the nine-judge Bench had imposed the limit for reservation in jobs and education at 50 per cent, except in “extraordinary circumstances”, it did not stop several States such as Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu to pass laws which allowed reservation extending to over 60 per cent.

Sources in the Chandrashekhar Rao government told Frontline that the views of the Supreme Court could not be cast in iron as there were several special circumstances in different States like some of the northeastern States which had a tribal population more than 50 per cent or, in other States where the other backward class (OBCs) communities were similarly more than 50 per cent. They added that social circumstances had also changed over time in various States thanks to varied population growth rates among different communities.

The court’s question “For how many generations will reservations continue?” has also not gone down too well with the Telangana government. Said an officer: “The Constitution does not have any provision relating to an upper limit for reservation. The 102nd constitutional amendment resulting in the insertion of Article 342 (A) took away the powers of legislatures to include deserving communities from time to time in the list of OBCs and push the reservation quota beyond 50 per cent as mandated by the Mandal Commission judgment of the Supreme Court.”

In 2017 the Telangana government passed a Bill increasing the reservation for Muslims from 4 to 12 per cent and Scheduled Tribes from 7 to 10 per cent, thereby taking the overall reservation in the State beyond the 50 per cent limit. The Bill was then sent to the Centre requesting that it be included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, to take it out of the purview of the provisions of the Mandal Commission judgment.

The Telangana Chief Minister made it clear that the State had conveyed to the Centre its view that reservation should be left to the States. Said the Chief Minister: “Fixing reservation is not in the hands of the State governments. There are anomalies in the system, and we have informed the Centre that it is not right to cap the limit at 50 per cent. The Supreme Court is seized of the matter.”