No Special Case Made Out For Breaching Ceiling Limit of 50%: Chhattisgarh High Court Strikes Down 58% Reservation In Education & Jobs

Shrutika Pandey

20 Sep 2022 7:45 AM GMT

  • No Special Case Made Out For Breaching Ceiling Limit of 50%: Chhattisgarh High Court Strikes Down 58% Reservation In Education & Jobs

    The Chattisgarh High Court has struck down a 2011 Amendment that provided 58% reservation to SCs, STs and OBCs in recruitment and entrance examinations in the state. A Division Bench of Chief Justice A.K. Goswami and Justice P.P. Sahu quashed the reservation policy and held, "We are of the opinion that no special case is made out for breaching the reservation ceiling limit of 50% while...

    The Chattisgarh High Court has struck down a 2011 Amendment that provided 58% reservation to SCs, STs and OBCs in recruitment and entrance examinations in the state. 

    A Division Bench of Chief Justice A.K. Goswami and Justice P.P. Sahu quashed the reservation policy and held,

    "We are of the opinion that no special case is made out for breaching the reservation ceiling limit of 50% while increasing the reservation to 58%. Inadequacy of representation in services under the State or inadequacy of representation in educational institutions is relevant to the extent reservation is sought to be pegged below 50% but if the ceiling is to be crossed, then inadequacy in representation cannot be the sole determining factor and there has to be exceptional circumstances."

    It held that the failure to secure a job or a seat in an educational institution by a reserve category candidate competing with candidates belonging to the general category could not be construed as an exceptional circumstance. The court also declared unconstitutional a 2012 notification in so far it relates to reservation for districts of Surguja, Surajpur, Balrampur-Ramanujganj, Jashpur, Koria and Surguja Division. 


    The Chattisgarh High Court was dealing with a batch of writ petitions challenging the 2011 amendment made to The Chattisgarh Lok Seva (Anusuchit Jatiyon, Anusuchot Jan Jatiyon Aur Anya Pichere Wargo Ke Lie Arakshan) Adhiniyam, 1994. The said rules were enacted to reserve vacancies in public services and posts and to certain educational institutions established, maintained or aided by the State Government in in favour of the persons belonging to SC, ST and OBC.

    Section 4 of the 1994 Act provides for the fixation of percentage for reservation of posts and standards of evaluation. By the Chhattisgarh Lok Seva (Anusuchit Jatiyon, Anusuchit Jan Jatiyon Aur Anya Pichere Wargon Ke Liye Aarakshan) Sanshodhan Adhiniyam, 2011 (for short, Amendment Act of 2011), Section 4(2)(i) of the Act of 1994 was substituted, which was the bone of contention in the petitions before the Court. Through the amendment, the quota for reserved classes in government jobs and admissions in educational institutions was scaled to 58 per cent (SC- 12%; ST-32%; AND OBC - 14%).

    The main contention of the petitioners was that the effect of amending Section 4(2) of the 1994 Act raises reservation to 58% and thus is unconstitutional to the reservation principle laid down by the Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney & Ors v. Union of India & Others, and M.R. Balaji & Ors v. The State of Mysore & Ors. Advocate Vinay Kumar Pandey, appearing for the petitioners, argued same is also in violation of the principles of equality of opportunity under A. 16(1) of the Constitution of India.

    It was also pleaded that reducing the percentage drastically from 16% to 12% in respect of SC in all posts is not tenable as they are not adequately represented in service. Similarly, an increase of percentage from 20 to 32% in respect of STs was also stated to be without any rationale basis.

    State's Response

    The State's response to the petitions emphasized that the Act came into existence when the State of Madhya Pradesh was a part of the State of Chhattisgarh. In 2000, the reorganization bifurcated the two states and allocated several tribal districts to the State of Chattisgarh. The Scheduled Castes dominant sections castes primarily formed the new State of Madhya Pradesh and a number of tribal districts got allocated to Chattisgarh, it was argued. 

    "The population of OBC continued to be substantially the same in both States. At the relevant time, there were 27 districts in the State of Chhattisgarh with a total population of 28.83 million, out of which the SC population was 2.42 million, and the ST population was 6.62 million as per the 2001 census. Thus, the SC population constituted about 12% of the total population of the State, while the ST population constituted approximately 31.76%. It is pleaded that poverty amongst STs is 54.8% compared to the All India figure of 44.7%," the State argued. 

    Before the issuance of the office memorandum, reservation of posts in Group C and D Central Government posts in the State of Chhattisgarh stood at 14% for SCs, 23% for STs and then, the Government of Chhattisgarh followed a policy of reservation of 16% for SCs, 20% for the STs and 14% for OBCs in respect of Class III and IV posts corresponding to Group C and D posts of the Central Government. The State's response pleaded that due to demographic chanS.C.sin thS.T.sopulation of the SCs and STs because of the bifurcation into two states, the Government of Chhattisgarh decided to review and re-frame the existing reservation policy for the State cadre posts, based on the data from the 2001 Census. In the process, numerous representations were received from the tribal groups, demanding a revision in the State's reservation policy.

    The State pleaded that the revised reservation policy is constitutionally valid. The same is based on the Directive Principles of the State Policy, in particular, Article 46 of the Constitution, which requires the State to protect and preserve the interest of the tribal communities, which do not only form 32% of the State's population but also markedly backward in social and economic terms. It is also pleaded that the Tribes Advisory Councils, a constitutional body under Schedule V of the Constitution of India, had recommended that the tribals in the State of Chhattisgarh should be accorded reservation at 32%.

    Advocate General S.C. Verma argued that the decision to amend the reservation policy was taken after considering the relevant aspects of the matter by which proportionate reservation is introduced in the State cadre posts. He submitted that Chhattisgarh is a tribal majority state; therefore, reserving 32% of positions in service or seats in educational institutions for the STs cannot be faulted. He also argued that the State has legislative competence and no violation of any fundamental rights has been established by the petitioners.

    He also noted that the 50% ceiling limit could be breached if (a) quantifiable contemporary data relating to backwardness is shown, which has to be determined based on objective factors such as studies of a particular community in a given area; (b) inadequacy in representation, which must factually exist though it need not be proved precise data and (c) overall administrative efficiency which cannot be supported by any data but is a matter of opinion based on various factors.


    In the petitioner's rejoinder filed, it was stated that a change in demographic position could only be ascertained from the subsequent census of 2011. Moreover, it is unjustified to base the amendment on the census of 2001 when the 2011 data was already available.

    It was also stated that while the State is free to exercise its discretion of providing reservation, the same is subject to the conditions that there must exist compelling reasons for backwardness and inadequacy of representation in a class of post(s) and the process, overall administrative efficiency is also to be borne in mind. In the instant case, discretionary power has been misused while breaching the ceiling limit of 50% reservation. The respondents have made the reservation proportionate to the population that cannot be sustained in law.

    It was asserted that there is no basis for changing the reservation percentage or breaching the ceiling of 50%.

    The decision by the Court

    The High Court referred to Articles 15(4), 16(4) and Article. It noted that if the impugned order is justified by the provisions of Article 15(4), its validity cannot be impeached on the ground that it violates Article 15(1) or Article 29(2). It noted,

    "The fundamental rights guaranteed by the said two provisions do not affect the validity of the special provision which it is permissible to make under Article. 15(4)."

    Article 15(4) authorizes the State to make a special provision for advancing any socially and educationally backward class of citizens distinguished from the SCs and STs, said the court. It added there is no doubt that special provisions can be made for both categories of citizens. 

    The Court thus held that in determining the question as to whether a particular provision has been validly made under Article 15 (4) or not, the first question which falls to be determined is whether the State has validly determined who should be included in these Backwards Classes.

    The Court noted that it is fairly straightforward that the backward classes of citizens for whom special provision is authorized to be made are,  by Article 15(4) itself, treated as being similar to the SCs and STs. SCs and STs, which have been defined, were known to be backward, and the Constitution-makers felt no doubt that special provisions had to be made for their advancement.

    It referred to the relevant constitutional provisions and held that it is contemplated that some Backward Classes may be included in scheduled castes and tribes by the Presidential order. Therefore, this helps to show that the Backward Classes for whose improvement special provision is contemplated by Article 15 (4) are in the matter of their backwardness comparable to SCs and STs, noted the bench.

    Can the 50% Ceiling Limit Be Exceeded?

    The Court said the increase of reservation from 50% to 58% is sought to be justified on the ground that there is an inadequacy of representation in the service of the State and educational institutions but no particular reasoning is assigned why reservation in respect of SC is brought down to 12% from earlier 16% and reservation in ST is increased to 32% from earlier 20%.

    The Court observed that the case presented in return is that the SC population constitute 12% of the population of the State, and the ST population constitutes about 31.76%, which is almost 32%, as per the 2001 Census. "It would appear that, accordingly, reservation is fixed at 12% for SC and 32% for ST proportionate to their respective percentage of the population," noted the court.

    "Special provisions contemplated by Article 15(4), 15(5) or 16(4) must be within reasonable limits," said the court.

    Referring to SC's decision in Balaji, the court said a particular provision should be less than 50% and how much less than 50% would depend upon the relevant prevailing circumstances in each case. "Any reservation contemplated in Article 16(4) should not exceed 50% was held to be the rule in Indra Sawhney (supra), which can be breached only in certain extraordinary situations and in exceptional cases. It was also observed that such power has to be exercised with extreme caution," the court said in the judgement.

    The bench also noted that in Indra Sawhney, it was categorically held what is required by the State for providing reservation under Article 16 "is not a proportionate representation but adequate representation, which cannot be read as proportional representation". "For exceeding reservations beyond 50%, there have to be extraordinary circumstances," said the court, while referring to various Supreme Court decisions.

    Case Title: Guru Ghasidas Sahitya Avam Sanskriti Academy v. State of Chhattisgarh & Anr and other connected matters

    Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Chh) 63 

    Click Here To Download The Order

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