Quota should not exceed 50 %, says Supreme Court

J. Venkatesan

Reiterates ruling in Mandal case

Significant in the context of Tamil Nadu quota law

University implements U.P. government policy

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday reiterated the ruling enunciated in Indra Sawhney (I) (Mandal case) that the total reservation for SC/ST and other backward classes or special categories should not exceed 50 per cent.

This ruling assumes significance in the context of a law in force in Tamil Nadu providing for 69 per cent quota in employment and education. This issue is still pending adjudication before a three-judge Bench.

A Bench of Justices C.K. Thakker and D.K. Jain, quoting the judgment in the Indra Sawhney (I) case, said there are two types of reservation: (i) vertical reservation; and (ii) horizontal reservation. They must be so applied as not to exceed 50 per cent reservation permissible under law. This can be done by ‘interlocking reservation.’

The reservation in favour of the SCs, the STs and other backward classes, under Article 16(4), may be called vertical reservation whereas reservation in favour of physically handicapped, under Article 16 (1), can be referred to as horizontal reservation. This one cut across the vertical reservation — in what is called interlocking reservation.

Writing the judgment in a case relating to the appointment of professors in Roorkee University, Mr. Justice Thakker said the proper course was to first fill the OC quota (50 per cent) on the basis of merit; then fill each of the social reservation quotas, i.e., SC, ST and BC; the third step would be to find out how many candidates belonging to special reservation have been selected on the above basis.

The Bench said: “If the quota fixed for horizontal reservation is already satisfied, in case it is an overall horizontal reservation, no further question arises. But if it is not so satisfied, the requisite number of special reservation candidates shall have to be taken and adjusted/ accommodated against their respective social reservation categories by deleting the corresponding number of candidates there from. The vertical reservation is now 50 per cent for general category and 50 per cent for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes.”

In the instant case, Roorkee University issued an advertisement in August 2000 for filling vacancies. The controversy relates to the vacancy position in the Department of Mathematics. There were six posts of Professors (unreserved) and three posts of Associate/Assistant Professors. Of three posts, two were reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates while one was for General Category: Unreserved (UR). They were to be filled under the Flexible Cadre Structure (FCS) in accordance with reserve roaster notified by the Government of Uttar Pradesh under whose control the University was functioning at the relevant time.

The grievance of Shiv Prasad, one of the petitioners, was that though he was eligible, he was not appointed, but a woman candidate Madhu Jain was selected in the 20 per cent women quota. The Uttaranchal High Court set aside the appointment of Ms. Jain but did not consider selection of Mr. Prasad. Both filed the present appeals.

Allowing the appeal of Ms. Jain, the Bench said though the total reservation could not exceed 50 per cent in this case the action of the varsity in appointing her was legal and valid since one post was reserved in women category under the combined cadre.

According to the policy of the U.P. government, there should be 20 per cent reservation for ‘women candidates’ in the combined cadre. The said policy had been accepted and implemented by the university. Since there were three posts in the ‘Combined Cadre,’ one was reserved for a woman candidate. Therefore, her appointment was valid, the Bench said and dismissed Mr. Prasada’s appeal.

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