Tamil Nadu’s quota in jobs and education for the Vanniyar community was cancelled today by the Supreme Court, which called it “unconstitutional” and a violation of the right to equality.
The Vanniyar community was given 10.5 per cent reservation in government jobs and educational institutions through a law enacted last year. The law, “Vanniyar Reservation Act 2021”, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court upheld a Madras High Court order on November 1 setting aside the quota handed by the AIADMK-led government that was in power in Tamil Nadu at the time.
“It is a violation of Article 14, 15, 16 (Right to equality; Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth; Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment),” said the court on a batch of petitions challenging the Madras High Court ruling.
The AIADMK government had passed the Vanniyar Reservation Act in February last year, just before the model code of conduct came into effect for the state elections in April. The DMK, which came to power in the elections, implemented the quota.
Petitioners argued that the High Court decision was erroneous in law and the state legislature had the power to provide quota to bring a community into the mainstream. Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) party founder S. Ramadoss had submitted that legislation unanimously passed by the state legislature enjoyed the presumption of constitutionality.
The Supreme Court noted that the state government had failed to provide data that Vanniyars had to be treated as a separate group within the backward castes.
“We are of the opinion that there is no basis to treat Vanniyars as a separate group compared to others backward classes,” said the judges.
Vanniyars are among the largest backward communities in Tamil Nadu, with significant political influence. They have long campaigned for quota and because of their clout, they became the only community to be given a 10.5% quota within the MBC (Most Backward Class) quota if 20 per cent. More than 100 other communities were to share the rest of the quota.
Tamil Nadu has 69 per cent reservation, which includes 30 per cent for Backward Castes, 20 per cent for Most Backward Castes, 18 per cent for Scheduled Caste and 1 per cent for the Scheduled Tribes.