Days 1-2 Arguments: 4 & 11 February 2020

The Supreme Court is deciding whether State legislatures can give preferential treatment to specific castes within the Scheduled Castes, for reservations in public services. In particular, the Court will assess the constitutionality of Section 4(5) of the Punjab Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act, 2006, which provides for preferential treatment to Balmikis and Mazbhi Sikhs. In 2010, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had struck down the provision as unconstitutional, citing the precedent established by the Supreme Court in E.V. Chinnaiah. The State of Punjab appealed the 2010 High Court judgment and now the matter is before a five-judge Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices Arun MishraIndira BanerjeeVineet SaranM.R. Shah and Aniruddha Bose.


On 4 and 11 February, Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan presented arguments on behalf of the State of Punjab.


Issues proposed

On 4 February, A.S.G. Divan proposed the following issues to the Bench:

  1. Whether the provisions contained under Section 4(5) of The Punjab Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act, 2006 are constitutionally valid?
  2. Whether the State had the legislative competence to enact the provisions contained under Section 4(5) of the Act?
  3. Whether a seven-judge or larger bench should revisit the decision in E.V. Chinnaiah v. State of Andhra Pradesh [(2005) 1 SCC 394]?


The court recorded the issues in its order and listed the matter for 11 February.


Bench adds the Union as a party

On 11 February, A.S.G. Divan was unavailable to the present arguments, so the Bench directed the Registrar to list the matter after 15 days.


Notably, it also issued notice to the Union of India, in particular the Department of Social Justice, citing the 'importance of the matter'


The Bench will resume hearing the case sometime after 25 February 2020.