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The Anathema Of 100 Per Cent Reservation Is Unconstitutional: Case Of Chebrolu Leela Prasad Rao V. State Of Andhra Pradesh

Background of the case
The case emerged out of a notification vide GOMs. No. 3 passed by then governor of the Andhra Pradesh government in 2002. The notification reserved all the posts of teachers in educational institutions of tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh exclusively for the local Schedule Tribes.

The Order was challenged via writ petition in the high court of Andhra Pradesh. The case was heard by a 3 judge bench of the high court which with the majority held that the Government notification is valid and in accordance with the constitution. After which an appeal was preferred in the Supreme Court against the decision of the High court of Andhra Pradesh.

The Judgement
The Supreme Court's bench comprising of 5 judges led by Justice Arun Misha delivered the judgment in the appeal on 22nd April 2020. It held that the notification is in “violation of Articles 14, 15(1) and 16 of the Constitution and has no rationale with the purpose sought to be achieved.”[1]

The bench observed that “100% reservation would amount to unreasonable and unfair and cannot be termed except as unfair and unreasonable. Thus we are of the considered opinion that providing 100 % reservation to the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes were not permissible. The Governor in the exercise of the power conferred by para 5(1) of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, cannot provide a 100% reservation.”[2]

The Bench further observed that “By providing 100 per cent reservation to the Scheduled Tribes has deprived the Scheduled Castes and the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) also of their due representation. [……] It also impinges upon the right of open category and scheduled tribes who have settled in the Scheduled Areas after January 26, 1950. The rights of the Scheduled Tribes who are not residents of the scheduled areas shall also be adversely affected if the impugned order is allowed to become operational.”[3]

The Andhra Pradesh government[4] has cited the governor's power under paragraph 5(1) of Schedule V of the constitution to make any laws non-applicable or applicable in scheduled tribal areas of the state. However, the Supreme Court clarified that providing 100 per cent reservation is like making a new law altogether which is not permissible under paragraph 5(1) of Schedule V.

However, since the notification has been in operation for about 20 years and many people were employed under it, the Supreme Court saved the appointment made under the notification before the judgement and held the judgement should be applied prospectively and not retrospectively.

What this judgement means?
The Supreme Court judgment is certainly in line with the established principles regarding the cap of reservation in India. Providing 100 per cent reservation to only one part of the backward groups can't be considered in line with Article 16 (4) of the constitution which gives the power to the state to reserve the seats in favour of the backward class of citizens. Further, the notification defies any logic as to why the 100 per cent seat should be reserved denying any scope to merit system in the appointments.

This judgment shouldn't be considered against affirmative action taken by the state to uplift the backward classes rather should be considered a Lakshman Rekha as to what line shouldn't be crossed by the states in taking such affirmative actions. Providing 100 % reservations to local tribals is not only against the interest of the general category but is also against the interest of STs residing in other areas, SCs and OBCs as well.

It's rightly said that the affirmative action loses their character when done exclusively only for a particular section of the society leaving all other stranded where they are. Mr B.R. Ambedkar was also of the view that the reservation should be given in “minority of seats'' to ensure the representation of backward classes.[5] Providing 100 per cent reservation is certainly not ensuring the adequate representation of the backward class but was taking away every other individual's right to equal opportunity, contrary to the principles envisaged in our constitution.

The Judgment has been subject to appraisal as well as criticism by the general public. For some, this judgment is a welcome one as the Supreme Court affirmed the need of celling the reservation under the 50% mark whilst for others the Supreme Court is under fault as it shouldn't have considered the Scheduled tribes of the tribal areas and other people on the same page.[6]

However, this judgment is certainly good in terms of the established principle of law. As was held by Supreme Court in M. Nagarajan Case[7] the cap of 50 per cent ensures equality of opportunity envisaged in article 16 of the constitution.

The Supreme Court relied on its ratio led down in Indra Sawhney case[8] and held that “providing for 100 per cent reservation is not permissible under the Constitution, the outer limit is 50 per cent as specified in Indra Sawhney.”[9] However, not only in this instance there are certainly more instances where this ceiling of reservation led down in Indra Sawhney cases is violated without any extraordinary circumstances as was mandated by Indra Sawhney case. The Supreme Court is yet to take some actions in such cases.

End-Notes:
  1. Chebrolu Leela Prasad Rao v. State of Andhra Pradesh,civil APPEAL NO.3609 OF 2002 ¶ 148.
  2. Chebrolu Leela Prasad Rao v. State of Andhra Pradesh,civil APPEAL NO.3609 OF 2002 ¶ 115.
  3. Chebrolu Leela Prasad Rao v. State of Andhra Pradesh,civil APPEAL NO.3609 OF 2002 ¶ 127.
  4. Including Now the Telangana.
  5. No 100% Quota: The Hindu Editorial on Overzealous Reservation - The Hindu' accessed 6 May 2020
  6. Andhra Pradesh: SC Scraps 100% Reservation in Scheduled Areas, Fueling Debate' (The Wire)accessed 6 May 2020
  7. M. Nagaraj v. Union of India, (2006) 8 SCC 212
  8. Indra Sawhney & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., (1992) Supp. 3 SCC 217.
  9. Chebrolu Leela Prasad Rao v. State of Andhra Pradesh,civil APPEAL NO.3609 OF 2002 ¶ 154

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