The Madras High Court has asked the centre to reply to a petition challenging the constitutional amendment granting 10 per cent reservation to economically weak sections of the upper castes by February 18.
The centre has reserved 10 per cent of government jobs and college seats for the economically weaker sections in the general category. The 10 per cent reservation is over and above the 50 per cent reservation limit set by the Supreme Court. Any reservation above the cap invites judicial scrutiny. But the government argued that the fresh reservation depends on economy, not caste and so, will not fall foul of the top court.
The bill was introduced and passed by both houses of the parliament within two days earlier this month.
But the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's (DMK), the main opposition party in Tamil Nadu, calls the centre's decision as "unconstitutional". The party filed a petition on Friday urging the court to pass an interim injunction against the amendment as it "offends" the basic structure of the constitution.
The DMK claimed that reservation is not a poverty alleviation programme, but is more in the nature of social justice to uplift communities that have not had access to education or employment for centuries.
"Therefore, essentially, the exception to the equality clause is only available to those communities which were ostracised for centuries in matters of education and employment. Economic criteria has been, however, used as a filter to exclude the creamy layer, persons belong to the backward classes but who are economically advanced," DMK organising secretary RS Bharathi said in the petition.
The petition added that the reservation in Tamil Nadu is 69 per cent due to the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and of appointments or posts in the Services under the State) Act, 1993 which is placed in the IX Schedule.
"The recent amendments enable reservation to go up to 79% and the same was unconstitutional," the plea said.
Legislations placed in the IX Schedule of the Constitution cannot be legally challenged. Hence, reservation cannot be beyond 69 per cent in the state, RS Bharathi said.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has also agreed to hear all the petitions challenging the centre's decision together.
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