The woman behind the 69% quota

In the mid 1990s Jayalalithaa took the lead in providing legislative support to the scheme of 69% reservation.

Updated - November 17, 2021 10:48 am IST

Published - December 06, 2016 03:10 am IST

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. File photo

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. File photo

In a State where the political class has always been protective of reservation in education and employment, it was left to Jayalalithaa in the mid-1990s to take the lead in providing legislative support to the scheme of 69 per cent reservation. Till then, the quota scheme was in operation only through executive orders.

The 69 per cent quota is meant for Backward Classes (26.5 per cent), Most Backward Classes/Denotified Communities (20 per cent), BC Muslims (3.5 per cent), Scheduled Castes (18 per cent) and Scheduled Tribes (one per cent). In the mid-1990s, BC Muslims were part of the BCs, and a separate quota for them was implemented in 2007 during the DMK regime.

A court order

Jayalalithaa had barely completed two years as Chief Minister in her first term (1991-96) when she faced a major problem. The Madras High Court, in the light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in 1992 that the quantum of reservation should not exceed 50 per cent, directed the State to bring it down to 50 per cent from academic year 1994-1995.

This led to demands for Constitutional protection for the scheme. In November 1993, the Assembly adopted the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of seats in educational Institutions and of appointments or posts in the services under the State) Bill, 1993 [now known as Tamil Nadu Act of 1994]. 

Meetings in Delhi

In June 1994, Jayalalithaa led a delegation of parties and impressed upon then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao to refer the Bill to President Shankar Dayal Sharma.

A month later, the Presidential assent came. She also stepped up pressure on the Centre to bring in a Constitutional amendment to include the Tamil Nadu Act in the Ninth Schedule so that its validity could not be challenged. By the end of August 1994, the Act became a part of the Ninth Schedule. The development fetched her the title of ‘Samooga Neethi Kaatha Veeranganai’ (The leader who upheld social justice).

Creamy layer included

Jayalalithaa, on returning to power in May 2011, took one more decision. Two months later, her Cabinet accepted the recommendation of the State Backward Classes Commission for continuing the 69 per cent quota without excluding the creamy layer. However, with the matter in the Supreme Court, the final word is yet to be said on the 1994 Act.


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