The quashing of the 10.5 per cent special internal reservation provided by the Tamil Nadu government to Vanniyars, a Most Backward Caste, within the 20 per cent quota reserved for the MBC category, by the Madras High Court on Monday was expected even at the time the legislation was hurriedly passed on the eve of the State Assembly election earlier this year.
Providing reservation to a particular community without proper data is against the constitution. Since 1931 there has been no caste census in India. The Pattali Makkal Katchi, political arm of the Vanniyar community, made it a condition that the ruling AIADMK pass the controversial legislation for it to join the National Democratic Alliance.
The AIADMK government passed the legislation without any quantifiable data on caste wise population. Even the commission formed by the government to collect quantifiable data on castes had not submitted its report at the time the legislation was passed.
The only reliable information the government had was the Sattanathan Commission report of 1970, according to which the Vanniyar population was high in the northern districts of Tamil Nadu and low in the southern districts. In such a case, if 10.5 per cent reservation is given to the Vanniyar caste all over the State, it would prevent the other MBC candidates getting admission in educational institutions and securing government employment.
What is even more surprising was the promptness with which the Governor gave his assent knowing fully well the legislation was unconstitutional and bound to be struck down by the higher judiciary. The electoral alliance the AIADMK entered into with the PMK and the BJP did not help it retain power in the April election.
The new government formed by the DMK had to implement the impugned law in the current academic session. Heads of educational institutions have been put in a dilemma. Although the High Court has quashed the 10.5 Vanniyar quota, the government does not want beneficiaries of the new law who have already paid the fees and started attending classes to suffer.
Tamil Nadu is the first State to introduce reservation to uplift the socially and economically weaker sections of society and continues to remain ahead of all others in the quantum of reservation.
Against the ceiling of 50 per cent reservation fixed by the Supreme Court of India, Tamil Nadu has managed to raise the reservation to 69 per cent: 30 per cent for Backward Classes, 20 per cent for the Most Backward Classes, 18 per cent for the Scheduled Castes and one per cent for the Scheduled Tribes.
In order to legitimise exceeding the reservation ceiling fixed by the apex court, Tamil Nadu had passed a reservation protection law, obtained the President’s assent and parked it in the 9th Schedule of the Constitution.
AIADMK leaders admit that legal advice was against the special internal reservation legislation, but political expediency made them go ahead and pass it. The DMK government is left with having to clear the mess left behind by the quashed law.