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Reservation is not a fundamental right says Supreme Court

Topics Covered: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

Reservation is not a fundamental right says Supreme Court

What’s the Context?

The Supreme Court has said that reservation of seats to certain communities was not a Fundamental Right.

What’s the issue?

The Court said this while refusing to act on a petition filed by all political parties from Tamil Nadu who sought 50% OBC reservation in the all-India NEET seats surrendered by states. 

All political parties from Tamil Nadu filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution.

They accused the Centre of violating the “right of the people of Tamil Nadu to have a fair education” by not implementing the 50% quota for Backward Classes and Most Backward Classes for the All India Quota seats in medical and dental science courses.

Key observations made by the Court:

Reservation is not a fundamental right”. Hence, Article 32 could not be applied.

Therefore, not giving the quota benefits cannot be construed as a violation of any constitutional right.

Petitioners’ arguments:

Non-implementation of such reservations in the state amounted to violation of Fundamental Rights of its residents.

This is because, the Director General of Health Services is not following any of the following laws to provide reservations:

  1. 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) Act, 1993 to provide 50% reservation for OBC candidates in All India Quota in undergraduate as well as postgraduate medical courses in Tamil Nadu.
  2. 27% reservation for OBC candidates in All India Quota in undergraduate as well as postgraduate medical courses to other States.

Court’s verdict on Reservation in promotions:

In February 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no fundamental right to claim reservation in public jobs and no court can order a state government to provide for reservation to SC/STs.

Additional information:

Constitutional Provisions regarding Reservations: 

  1. Articles 15(4) and 16(4)state that the equality provisions do not prevent the government from making special provisions in matters of admission to educational institutions or jobs in favour of backward classes, particularly the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs).
  2. Article 16(4A) allows reservations to SCs and STs in promotions, as long as the government believes that they are not adequately represented in government services.
  3. In the Indra Sawhney case of 1992, the Supreme Court fixed the upper limit for the combined reservation quota should not exceed 50% of seats.
  4. In 2019, the 103rd Constitution Amendment Act was passed empowering both Centre and the states to provide 10% reservation to the EWS category of society in government jobs and educational institutions.

Writ jurisdiction:

The Supreme Court under Article 32 and the High courts under Article 226 of the Constitution can issue the writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari and quo-warranto to check and enforce fundamental rights .

The Parliament under Article 32 can also empower any other court to issue these writs. However, no such provision has been made so far.

The Supreme Court can issue writs only for the enforcement of fundamental rights whereas a High court can issue writs for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights and also for an ordinary legal right.


Prelims Link:

  1. What is NEET?
  2. Constitutional provisions wrt to Reservations.
  3. Overview of articles 32, 226, 14, 15 and 16.
  4. What are writs?
  5. Difference in powers of SC and HC wrt writ jurisdictions.
  6. Indra Sawhney case verdict.
  7. When can Article 32 be suspended?
  8. Who can empower any other court to issue writs?

Mains Link:

Reservation is not a fundamental right. Discuss in the light of recent verdict of the Supreme Court.

Sources: the Hindu.