A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court held it unconstitutional to provide 100% reservation for tribal teachers in schools located in Scheduled Areas across the country.
A 152-page judgment by a Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra said it was an “obnoxious idea” to have only tribals teach tribals.
Also read | Quotas and a verdict
“It is an obnoxious idea that tribals only should teach the tribals. When there are other local residents, why they cannot teach is not understandable. The action defies logic and is arbitrary. Merit cannot be denied in toto by providing reservation,” Justice Mishra, who wrote the verdict for the Constitution Bench, observed. The five-judge Bench was answering a reference made to it in 2016 on whether 100% reservation is permissible under the Constitution.
The court held that 100% reservation is discriminatory and impermissible. The opportunity of public employment is not the prerogative of few. A 100% reservation to the Scheduled Tribes has deprived Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes also of their due representation. The court referred to the Indira Sawhney judgment, which caps reservation at 50%.
“Citizens have equal rights, and the total exclusion of others by creating an opportunity for one class is not contemplated by the founding fathers of the Constitution of India,” Justice Mishra wrote.
The case stemmed from a legal challenge to January 10, 2000 order issued by the erstwhile State of Andhra Pradesh Bench providing 100% reservation to the Scheduled Tribe candidates, out of whom 33.1/3% shall be women, for the post of teachers in schools located in the Scheduled Areas of the State. The court said the 2000 notification was “unreasonable and arbitrary”.
The court noted the 2000 notification was a “misadventure” the erstwhile State had embarked on to save an identical one issued in 1986. The 2000 notification was given retrospective effect to bring to life to its predecessor of 1986.
The court said it would not set aside the teachers’ appointments as long as Telangana and Andhra do not try, for a third time, to bring a similar notification in the future.
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