The Desk

SC Judgment Review 2021: Reservations

The Supreme Court delivered key judgments on reservations for Persons with Disabilities and the Maratha community.

Reservations continued to remain front and centre at the Supreme Court in 2021. The Court emphasised the salience of non-discrimination in public education and employment through key judgments on reservations for Persons with Disabilities and Marathas.

  1. State of Kerala v. Leesamma Joseph

In February, a two-judge Bench of the Court held that Persons with Disabilities have the right to reservation in promotions. Through an expansive reading of Article 16 of the Constitution of India with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, the Court held that reasonable accommodations must be made for persons with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations would include reservations in promotions.

  1. Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil v Chief Minister, Maharashtra

In May, the Court curtailed States’ powers to provide reservations to socially and economically backward classes through a judgment in the politically contentious Maratha reservation case. A five-judge Bench of the Court invalidated Maharashtra’s Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018 which granted 16% reservation for Marathas in public education and services.

Interpreting the Constitution of India (One Hundred and Second) Amendment Act, 2018, the Court stressed that States did not have the power to identify socially and economically backward classes for reservations in public education and employment. This power was vested in Parliament.

The Court emphasised the importance of adequate data on caste in reservations policies, and held that the State of Maharashtra had failed to demonstrate data justifying reservations for Marathas.

Crucially, in August 2021, Parliament enacted the Constitution of India (One Hundred and Fifth) Amendment Act, 2021 which restored States’ powers to identify socially and economically backward classes for reservations.

The role of empirical data for reservations will continue to remain under the spotlight in 2022. The lack of data in determining EWS and OBC reservations for post-graduate medical admissions shall be considered by the Court in the coming year.