Chhattisgarh HC sets aside state govt’s decision to raise quota to 58 pc; says reservation exceeding 50 pc unconstitutional

The Chhattisgarh High Court has set aside the state government’s 2012 decision to raise the quota to 58 per cent in government jobs and admissions in educational institutions and held that reservation exceeding the 50 per cent ceiling is unconstitutional.

A division bench of Chief Justice Arup Kumar Goswami and Justice P P Sahu delivered the verdict on Monday on petitions challenging the state government’s decision to amend the reservation rules in 2012 when the BJP was in power, said Mateen Siddiqui, the counsel for one of the petitioners.

According to the 2012 amendment, the quota for Scheduled Castes (SCs) was slashed by four per cent to 12 per cent, while reservation for Scheduled Tribes (STs) was increased by 12 per cent — from 20 per cent to 32 per cent. The reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) was kept unchanged at 14 per cent, he said.

After the amendment, the cumulative reservation in the state went up to 58 per cent breaching the 50 per cent ceiling limit, he said.

In the same year, Guru Ghasidas Sahitya Samiti and other petitioners challenged it in the high court.

The hearing of the case was completed in July and the order was passed on Monday, said Siddiqui.

As per the order, Vinay Kumar Pandey, the counsel appearing for the petitioners, submitted that as the reservation has exceeded 50 per cent, it has violated the principles of equality of opportunity under Article 16(1) of the Constitution.

“No materials have been placed before this court to justify the impugned amendment brought in by Amendment Act of 2011 and such amendment has been effected breaching 50 per cent ceiling without any exercise being undertaken with regard to representation of various classes such as SCs, STs and OBCs in service,” Pandey said.

“No exceptional circumstance is made out for breaching the 50 per cent ceiling of reservation and the state has brought the amendment as a measure of proportional representation, which is not permissible in law,” Pandey said.

Advocate General S C Verma submitted that the incidence of poverty in the state amongst SCs is lower in comparison to the national figures while in the case of STs, there is a substantially higher incidence of poverty.

The decision to amend the reservation policy had been taken (in 2012) after taking into consideration the relevant aspects of the matter by which proportionate reservation is introduced in Chhattisgarh-cadre posts.

It is submitted that Chhattisgarh is a tribal majority state and therefore, reserving 32 per cent posts in service or seats in educational institutions for the STs cannot be faulted, he added.

“On the basis of materials on record, we are of the opinion that no special case is made out for breaching the reservation ceiling limit of 50 per cent while increasing the reservation to 58 per cent,” the HC said in the order.

“Holding the reservation above 50 per cent is unconstitutional,” the high court said, adding that it is not inclined to interfere with admissions taken and the appointments issued on the basis of the impugned reservation.

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