The Madras High Court on Monday issued a notice to the Centre to reply before February 18 on a DMK's petition challenging 10 per cent reservation in employment and education to economically weaker section in general category.
A division bench comprising justices S Manikumar and Subranmonium Prasad rejected the contention by Additional Solicitor General G Rajagopalan that the petition filed by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) was a "political interest litigation" and moved to push its agenda.
Earlier, the counsel for petitioner - DMK organising secretary RS Bharathi - submitted that reservations were not poverty alleviation programmes but more in the nature of social justice to uplift communities which have not had access to education or employment for centuries.
The ASG, who appeared for the central government, argued that the DMK was ideologically against certain communities and was opposing the 10 per cent economic reservation only to push its personal agenda.
Terming the petition a "political interest litigation" and not a public interest litigation, Mr Rajagopalan said the petitioner who lost opposing the amendment in one constitutional forum (Parliament) was now trying to misuse another constitutional forum (High Court) to push its agenda.
The bench, however, rejected the contention that it was a political interest litigation and asked the ASG, "The Constitution talks about Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, most backward, backward and other communities. Who could be persons falling under other communities (mentioned in the amendment)?"
In response, the ASG said the other communities were those which did not fall under the reservation category.
Objecting to the ASG's contentions, Tamil Nadu's counsel P Wilson alleged it was only the Union government which was opposing the plea.
The petitioner submitted that essentially the exception to the equality clause was only available to those communities which were ignored of education and employment for centuries.
Economic criteria has been used as a filter to exclude the creamy layer of economically advanced among the backward classes, he said.
Hence, application of economic criteria solely was not contemplated as an exception to the rule of equality and hence it offends the basic structure of the Constitution, he contended.
Noting that in Tamil Nadu, the reservation ceiling limit was 69 per cent, he said under the recent Constitution (124th Amendment) Act, 2019, it would go up to 79 per cent and was unconstitutional.
The power to amend the Constitution was subject to the limitation that its basic feature cannot be destroyed by such amendments, he submitted.
The petitioner wanted the court to pass an interim injunction against the operation of the Amendment Act and pending disposal of the plea.
The Parliament earlier this month passed the amendment bill providing for 10 per cent reservation in government jobs and education for economically weaker sections in the general category.
Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh have already implemented the law.