10.5% Vanniyar reservation: Madras HC to pass interim orders tomorrow

A Second Division Bench granted a day’s time to the State since government counsel P. Muthukumar urged the court to grant a short adjournment to enable the appearance of Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram, to oppose the plea for interim relief

The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the State government to respond by Wednesday, as to why it should not pass interim orders on a batch of cases that had challenged a law providing 10.5% internal reservation for Vanniakula Kshatriyas within the 20% earmarked for Most Backward Classes (MBCs).

Second Division Bench of Justices M.M. Sundresh and S. Kannammal granted a day’s time to the State since government counsel P. Muthukumar urged the court to grant a short adjournment to enable the appearance of Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram to oppose the plea for interim relief.

Senior Counsel K.M. Vijayan, representing one of the petitioners, urged the court to restrain the government from implementing the internal reservation in education and public employment. He argued that it would become a fait accompli if the cases were kept pending without any interim relief.

Finding force in his submission, Justice Sundresh said the court could pass an interim order that the implementation of the new law would be subject to the outcome of the writ petitions pending before the court. Immediately, the government counsel intervened and obtained time for the A-G’s appearance.

The State government had already gone all out in support of the law, which was passed by the Legislative Assembly, just hours before the model code of conduct came into force in the State in February this year. In a counter affidavit to the huge batch of cases that had challenged the law, the government termed as “baseless” the charge that there was a political motive behind the enactment and that the law was passed hastily, before the notification of the Assembly elections this year, in violation of the Legislative Assembly rules.

“In a democratic polity, an elected government cannot be barred from exercise of its power to make a policy to legislate any law during its tenure/until the last minute it holds power, to meet the public opinion at large,” the government said and pointed out that one C.N. Ramamurthy had filed a writ petition in the High Court in 2010 itself seeking internal reservation.

Thereafter, the process of consultation for sub-classification within the 20% earmarked for MBCs began on June 13, 2012 when the then chairman of Tamil Nadu Backward Classes Commission recommended 10.5% reservation for the Vanniakula Khastriya (including Vanniar, Vanniya, Vannia Gounder, Gounder or Kander, Padayachi, Palli and Agnikula Kshatriya) community.

Such a recommendation was made by relying upon door-to-door enumeration conducted by the second Tamil Nadu BC Commission in 1983, when the population of Vanniakula Kshatriyas was found to be 65.04 lakh (13.01%) out of the State’s total population of 4.99 crore. Therefore, provision of 10.5% reservation to a community with a population of 13.01% could not be called disproportionate, the government said.

Though the members of the BC Commission in 2013 had dissented with the recommendation made by the chairman, the government, before taking a policy decision in February this year, called for the opinion of the incumbent chairman of the commission and he too, in a letter written to the government on February 26, 2021, recommended 10.5% internal reservation to Vanniakula Khastriyas, the court was told.

On the ground raised by the writ petitioners that the law had been passed even before submission of a report by a Commission constituted on December 21, 2020 under the chairmanship of retired High Court judge A. Kulasekaran to collect quantifiable data on castes, communities and tribes in the State within six months, the government said the commission did not submit any report within its tenure.

The government also said that “it is a myth” to claim that the internal reservation to Vanniakula Kshatriyas had affected other communities falling under MBC. Stating that the law that is being challenged categorises other MBCs and denotified communities too, and provides 7% and 2.5% reservation for them too, the government said: “As such it cannot be claimed that only the Vanniakula Kshatriya have been favoured by this enactment.”

Further, asserting that the government was empowered to pass such a law for providing internal reservation, it referred to a 2007 enactment through which Backward Class Muslims in the State were actively provided with separate reservation. The counter affidavit was served on all counsel including advocate K. Balu of Pattali Makkal Katchi who wanted to get impleaded and support the law.

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