November 1, 2021 6:47:39 pm
Declaring it as ultra vires to the Constitution, the Madras High Court Monday quashed the 10.5 percent special internal reservation provided to Vanniyars, a most backward community (MBC), and their sub-castes in government jobs and educational institutions.
A division bench of Justices M Duraiswamy and K Murali Shankar, while passing the order, questioned the state government’s decision to provide special reservation to a particular MBC community without the backing of a caste-based census.
The earlier All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)-led government had passed the Vanniyar Reservation Act in February, barely an hour before the model code of conduct came into effect for the assembly polls in April. It was implemented by the current DMK government after it came to power.
There were no less than 20 petitions before the Madras HC challenging the special reservation for Vanniyars, mostly representing and arguing the case of other MBC communities that weren’t considered for the reservation. The arguments of petitions was that a 10.5 per cent reservation for Vanniyars alone will have a huge impact on some 25 other MBC communities and 65 Denotified Communities (DNC). The petitions also argued that it will impact the harmony among the MBCs.
In Tamil Nadu’s 69% reservation system, the 10.5% special quota for Vanniyars was implemented within the 20% quota allotted for MBCs. There is an 18% quota for SCs and 30 for Other Backward Castes (OBCs), which also includes Muslims (3.5%) and Christians.
While the court was to quash the quota, Advocate K Baalu, a prominent lawyer attached to Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), a party in AIADMK-NDA alliance backed by a significant number of Vanniyar votes, requested the court to delay the order by a week to allow them time to file an appeal in the Supreme Court. Adv. Baalu cited that a quashing order would affect many students and candidates from the Vanniyar community who have got employment and enrolled into educational institutions on the basis of the reservation.
The bench, however, categorically stated that admissions and appointments based on special quota are subject to the outcome of the writ petitions.
Vanniyars are one of the largest and most consolidated backward communities in the state and the largest backward community next to the Scheduled Caste.
While the demand for special quota was raised by PMK, and their chief ally AIADMK saw a political advantage in promising them the same ahead of last assembly polls, the DMK that did not benefit much from the organised Vanniyar votes, too, had a long term plan when it decided to implement the quota even as the legal experts said it will most likely get quashed in the court.
The government counsels said they will go to the Supreme Court with an appeal and had taken a position in the court that the internal reservation for Vanniyars has been provided based on the survey conducted by the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes Commission in 1983.
Even as PMK, a party that patronised the Vanniyar votebank, is with AIADMK-NDA alliance, DMK has been careful in handling the interests of the community for their cadre base in Vanniyar belts too – the community has at least three ministers in the Stalin cabinet including DMK veterans Durai Murugan, and MRK Panneerselvam.
While PMK is blamed for hate speeches and violent riots against Dalit communities in Tamil Nadu, the community with a numerically significant stake in northern Tamil Nadu districts was also a victim of rapid urbanisation and collapsing agrarian systems in the past four decades, driving men to alcoholism and families to mere caste pride where the land they own hardly brings any profit.
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