Legal Correspondent

``Amalgamation of two groups a violation''

  • Bench sets aside Jharkhand High Court order
  • Changing categorisation violation of guidelines
  • State directed to carry out study and decide matter afresh

    New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday held that the Centre or the State Governments cannot club together the ``Most Backward Class' and ``Backward Class'' categories as one group for the purpose of providing reservation in jobs and educational institutions.

    Giving this ruling a Bench of Justice A.R. Lakshmanan and Justice Lokeshwar Singh Panta said: ``The amalgamation of two classes of people for reservation would be unreasonable as two different classes are treated similarly which is in violation of the mandate of Article 14 of the Constitution which is to treat similar [class] similarly and to treat different [class] differently. It is well settled that to treat un-equals as equals also violated Article 14 of the Constitution.''

    Rejects 14 per cent reservation

    The Bench set aside a judgment of the Jharkhand High Court approving the decision of the State Government to amalgamate the two classes Extremely Backward Class and Backward Class and providing 14 per cent reservation for the amalgamated category. Mr. Justice Lakshmanan, writing the judgment, rejected the contention of the State Government that it was only following a policy adopted by the Centre in clubbing two backward class groups.

    The Bench said it was settled law that even policy matters would have to be tested on the touchstone of arbitrariness and that the present policy of the State Government was discriminatory and arbitrary.

    The judges, citing the Mandal Commission judgment, said the apex court had stated that there was no constitutional bar to a State categorising backward classes as ``backward'' and ``more backward.''

    The communities included in the list of the Backward Classes and the Most Backward Classes were receiving the benefit of reservation and to change their status would be in violation of the guidelines laid down in the Mandal judgment.

    In the instant case, the Jharkhand Government initially provided for 73 per cent reservation. This was struck down by the High Court, which said as per the Mandal judgment the total reservation should not exceed 50 per cent.

    Accepting the verdict the State Government revised the percentage under each category and in the process clubbed the extremely Backward Class and Backward Class as one category and provided 14 per cent reservation for it.

    The High Court upheld this order. The present appeal by Atyant Pichhara Barg Chhatra Sang and another was directed against this judgment.

    Setting aside the judgment, the Bench directed the State to carry out a deep study and research by a special committee of experts headed by a retired High Court judge to go into the issue and decide the matter afresh.

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