Tamil Nadu’s Vanniyar Reservation
Pattali Makkal Katchi v Mayileruperumal
The Supreme Court held that Tamil Nadu's reservation for Vanniyars in education and employment within the Most Backward Classes category was unconstitutional. The Court observed that the reservation was not supported by empirical data on backwardness.
Petitioner: Pattali Makkal Katchi
Lawyers: Sr. Adv. M N Rao Mr. S Thananjayan Mr. R Jothimanian Adv Ms. Aaina Verma Ms. Jaswanti
Respondent: A. Mayilerumperumal
Whether the TN Government had the power to enact a law allowing for reservation of 10.5 % for Vanniyars within the MBC category?
Whether the reservation for Vanniyars without empirical data discriminated against other classes in this category?
The Constitution (One Hundred and Second Amendment Act), 2018, removed States’ power to identify socially and economically backward classes for reservation in employment and education vesting this power in Parliament.
On February 26th 2021, the Tamil Nadu Special Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions including Private Educational Institutions and of Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State within the Reservation for the Most Backward Classes and Denotified Communities Act, 2021 (The Tamil Nadu Act) was passed. The Act provided for 10.5% reservation for Vanniyars in public education and employment within the 20% reservation provided for Most Backward Classes (MBCs). Reservation for MBCs is not uniform across States, with the Tamil Nadu Government introducing reservation for MBCs in 1993.
The Maratha Case decided in May 2021 by the Supreme Court emphasised that States did not have the power to identify backward classes and said that data on backwardness is required for before reservation for a class could be provided.
The States’ power to identify classes for reservation was restored by the Constitution (One Hundred and Fifth Amendment Act), 2021, passed in August of that year.
The TN Act was challenged by persons belonging to other MBCs before the Madras High Court.
They claimed that the TN government did not have the power to pass the Act as it was enacted prior to the 105th Constitutional Amendment.
The MBCs further urged that this reservation within the MBC quota discriminated against them as there was no empirical data to support the Vanniyars’ claim to backwardness. The High Court declared the Act unconstitutional, accepting both arguments.
On December 16th, a Bench comprising L Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna JJ admitted a group of petitions, including those by the TN State Government and the Pattali Makkal Katchi that sought to uphold the Act. The Bench in an interim order stayed new appointments to TN State Government services and admissions to educational institutions till the case was decided.
The SC held that even though the State government was legislatively competent to provide internal reservations, it had erred by using antiquated and unreliable data to frame the 2021 Act. The Court found that the 2021 Act discriminates against other MBC groups—who are disadvantaged as they cannot claim this large share of reserved seats.