Preferential Treatment Within Scheduled Castes
State of Punjab v Davinder Singh
The Supreme Court will decide whether State legislation can give preferential treatment to specific castes within the Scheduled Castes.
Petitioner: State of Punjab; Union of India; Director Public Instructions - Secondary Education (Chandigarh); Gurbachan Singh
Lawyers: Ranjit Kumar; Rakesh Kumar; Manoj Swarup; M.S. Ganesh
Respondent: Davinder Singh; Chamar Mahansabha; Lachman Singh
Lawyers: Shekhar Naphade; R. Venkatramani; Nidhesh Gupta; Colin Gonsalves;Sanjay Hegde; Jayant Muthraj; Arun Bhardwaj; Subba Rao;
Whether the provisions contained under Section 4(5) of The Punjab Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act, 2006 are constitutionally valid?
Whether the State had the legislative competence to enact the provisions contained under Section 4(5) of the Act?
Whether a larger bench should revisit the decision in E.V. Chinnaiah v State of Andhra Pradesh?
The Punjab & Haryana High Court (HC) struck down Section 4(5) of the Punjab Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act, 2006 (hereafter ‘Act’) as unconstitutional in 2010. The current case arises out of the State of Punjab’s appeal against this judgment. Section 4(5) of the Act provides for ‘first preference’ to the Balmikis and Mazbhi Sikhs castes for Scheduled Caste reservations in public services.
The HC reasoned that Section 4(5) created an unconstitutional sub-division within the Scheduled Castes, citing the precedent established in E.V. Chinnaiah v State of Andhra Pradesh. The Supreme Court in E.V. Chinnaiah had established that any ‘sub-classification’ of the Scheduled Castes would violate Article 14 of the Constitution. It had stressed that only Parliament, not State Legislatures, can exclude castes deemed to be Scheduled Castes from the Presidential List under Article 341 of the Constitution.
The State of Punjab has appealed the High Court’s judgment on the ground that E.V. Chinnaiah does not apply to the current case. It claims that its legislature had the competence to enact Section 4(5) of the Act. In addition, it has raised the issue of whether a seven-judge Bench of the Court needs to revisit the judgment in E.V. Chinnaiah.
Over the course of three days, starting on July 14th 2020, Justice Arun Mishra’s Bench heard the counsels present final arguments. In the first half of final arguments, the Bench heard the counsels offer different interpretations of the precedents set in E.V. Chinnaiah and other landmark cases. In the second half, the counsels argued on the question of whether the current dispute should be referred to a larger Bench. On August 27th 2020, the five-judge bench referred E. V. Chinnaiah to a larger bench to re-examine the ruling.