A Review Petition has been filed against the Supreme Court's judgment by which a State Government Order affirming 100% reservation for Scheduled Tribe (ST) teachers in a scheduled area of Andhra Pradesh was quashed.
On April 22, 2020, a 5-Judge Constitution Bench of the Apex Court, headed by Justice Arun Mishra, held that the Andhra Pradesh Governor's move affirming absolute reservation to teachers belonging to the ST community was constitutionally invalid, and therefore struck it down. This was in the case Chebrolu Leela Prasad Rao and others vs State of Andhra Pradesh.
The Court had followed the dictum in Indira Sawhney judgment (Indira Sawhney v Union of India), according to which Reservations would be constitutionally valid only as long as they do not go beyond 50%.
It was ruled that:-
"By providing 100 percent reservation to the scheduled tribes has deprived the scheduled castes and other backward classes also of their due representation. The concept of reservation is not proportionate but adequate, as held in Indra Sawhney (supra). The action is thus unreasonable and arbitrary and violative of provisions of Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution of India. It also impinges upon the right of open category and scheduled tribes who have settled in the area after 26th January 1950. The total percentage of reservation provided for Scheduled Tribes in the State is 6%. By providing 100 percent reservation in the scheduled areas, the rights of the tribals, who are not residents of the scheduled areas, shall also be adversely affected."
Now, a total of 5 organizations and individuals, claiming to be working towards the protection of socio-economic rights of weaker sections and communities in society, have challenged this verdict stating that there are errors apparent on the face of the record.
The review petitioners claim that the ruling effectively takes away the rights of people belonging to the tribal community as well as other minorities to get adequate and appropriate representation within the settings of their own community.
They express their concern that such a judgment "will throttle the ability of state governments to formulate beneficial policies for Tribal Communities in their seclusion in fit cases where forced integration may pose a risk to their identity and survival. Further, the general rights of tribal communities in India will be compromised if the state cannot provide adequate reservation in appropriate cases, something likely to occur as a result of the judgment".
"The judgment will only help create more inequality and promote acts of the privileged to further suppress the already suppressed Schedule Tribes in the Scheduled Areas", the plea reads
It is contended that the Constitution Bench ignored the fact that the aforementioned Reservation was intended only for a scheduled area, and by striking it down, the Court has created obstacles in securing minority rights in the future.
Despite the Court's findings regarding ensuring equality and justice, in its original judgment, the review petitioners point out that the Bench's action shows a lack of apathy and concern towards STs in the scheduled area. Thus, they submit that "after holding that 'the Constitution in the historic perspective leans in favour of providing equality and those aims sought to be achieved by the Constitution by giving special protection to the socially and economically backward classes by providing a protective umbrella for their social emancipation and providing them equal justice, ensuring the right of equality by providing helping hand to them by way of reservation measures', this Hon‟ble Court has done just the opposite and taken away the same by invoking Article 14 to strike out the reservation and ignoring the stark fact that the said reservation was in and for a Scheduled Area".
It is further argued that the Government Order was issued with the intention to secure the availability of teachers in the scheduled areas, which would result in increased literacy there. "Thus the Notification was based on intelligible differentia and the classification had a nexus with the object sought to be achieved", add the petitioners.
The petition goes on to invoke the Indira Sawhney judgment to assert that the Government Order could not have been quashed as it was, and doing so has caused grave harm to the ST community.
"As laid down in Indira Sawhney (supra), reservation contemplated by Article 16(4) can be provided not only by Parliament/Legislature but also by local bodies and other authorities. Hence the Governor's power to provide for reservation cannot be questioned by the Hon‟ble Court, especially as the law laid down in Indira Sawhney has been upheld and not been set aside."
Filed by KV Bharathi Upadhyaya, and settled by Mehmood Pracha, the review petition pleads that the judgment would only create further divide and encourage more suppression.
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