States can give quota within reserved categories, rules SC

Supreme Court of India

SRINAGAR — In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court has held that States may make laws to give preferential reservation to sub-castes within Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe categories.

The Constitution Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose opined that it would be open to the State to provide on a rational basis the preferential treatment by fixing reasonable quota out of reserved seats to ensure adequate representation in services.

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The Bench further added that the benefit by and large is not percolating down to the neediest and poorest of the poor.

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The Court said that in a federal structure, the State Government has the right to provide reservation in the fields of employment and education. There is no constitutional bar to take further affirmative action as taken by the State Government in the cases to achieve the goal. By allotting a specific percentage out of reserved seats and to provide preferential treatment to a particular class, cannot be said to be violative of the Constitution.

Though the Bench has referred the matter to the Chief Justice of India to send it to a larger Bench of at least seven judges since another five-judge Bench gave a contradictory view in 2005 judgment.

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The question was posed before the Supreme Court in a batch of appeals against the decision of the Punjab & Haryana High Court which struck down Section 4(5) of the Punjab Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act of 2006 as being unconstitutional.

The 2006 Act of Punjab had provided preference to Balmiki and Mazhbi Sikhs from the quota for the SC communities.

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