Supreme Court to hear appeals for Tamil Nadu’s Vanniyar quota law on Feb 15-16

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Tamil Nadu government not to make any fresh appointments or admissions under the special law providing 10.5% reservation to Vanniyars, a most backward class (MBC) community, after the state law passed in February this year was struck down as unconstitutional by the Madras high court on November 1.

For now, the court has, however, protected all appointments and admissions made by the government before the high court ruling.

Nearly 75,000 students have been granted admission availing the benefit of this law.

“Appointments already made shall not be disturbed. No appointments or admissions shall be made till February 15,” a bench of justices L Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna said as it issued notice on a set of appeals challenging the high court decision filed by the Tamil Nadu government and Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) – a political outfit in the state representing the interests of the Vanniyakula Kshatriyas who benefit from this law.

The Supreme Court posted the matter for hearing on February 15 and 16, and told the lawyers appearing in the case that no adjournment shall be granted considering the “importance” of the issue that has implications on the future of students admitted under this law. A host of lawyers appeared in favour of the law with the state government being led by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

Tamil Nadu passed a law to grant 10.5% reservation for Vanniyars within the already available 20% quota for MBCs in February this year just before the state was hearing into state elections. This law was challenged before the top court and the Madras high court simultaneously. In July, the top court refused to stay the law while allowing the hearing before the high court to go on.

The high court ruled that the 10.5% quota law passed by the previous All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) led assembly the day state elections were announced, was illegal because of a lack of quantifiable data to measure the “extreme backwardness” of the Vanniyars.

The petition filed by the Tamil Nadu government said that MBCs were identified in Tamil Nadu as early as 1957 as equivalent to scheduled castes but without the factor of untouchability. In 2012, much after the enactment of the 1994 law providing 20% reservation for MBCs, the Tamil Nadu backward classes commission was asked by the state government to grant internal reservation within the 20% quota.

The commission chairman alone recommended for 10.5% quota for Vanniyar Kshatriya. Later this recommendation was revisited by the state backward classes commission in February 2021 which gave the go-ahead for implementing a 10.5% Vanniyar quota within the MBC quota, causing disgruntlement among other MBCs and de-notified communities, otherwise entitled to these benefits.

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