February 13, 2020 3:19:12 am
THE SUPREME Court on Wednesday questioned the Andhra Pradesh government’s decision in 1988 to provide 100 per cent reservation to Scheduled Tribes for teacher posts in Scheduled Areas, saying it would deprive other backward communities from availing reservation benefits and opined that allowing it may facilitate misuse.
“What will Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes do? They are also downtrodden. This is suffocating,” said Justice Arun Mishra, heading a five-judge Constitution bench, which is hearing an appeal challenging the 1988 notification issued by the then state Governor. The bench also comprises Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M R Shah and Aniruddha Bose.
The bench sought to know what was the data before the Governor on the basis of which the decision was made. “If this is allowed without data, it will not be far when politicians will start doing it for whosoever supports their ideology. There is no political will left to undo a wrong,” Justice Mishra said as Senior Advocate R Venkataramani, appearing for the state, sought to defend the notification.
Justice Saran said that by the notification “it’s presumed that ST is the only deprived group in that area” and asked “is there any data to say that no other group is deprived in that area?”
“Such obnoxious provision has been tolerated for two decades… If we permit this to happen, there will be no end and in entire country it may happen…we do not know the wisdom of our wise men,” said Justice Mishra.
“It closes the door for those who are qualified. They cannot even apply,” added Justice Saran.
Subramani said “perhaps the Governor thought it is the most proximate way to achieve educational improvement of those areas”. He said that the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution dealing with administration of Scheduled Areas vests the Governor with legislative and administrative powers, which run seamlessly.
The counsel added that Scheduled Areas and STs were collective beneficiaries of the order and that it was not intended to discriminate others.
The “Governor’s decision can’t be above the law”, observed Justice Mishra and referred to the apex court judgment in Indira Sawhney case which said the reservation limit should not exceed 50 except in exceptional circumstances.
Venkataramani said what was exceptional was subjective.
But the bench said this would require data to justify.
“Even if there was no data, maybe Governor looked at the Rules and felt it is not enough to improve the standard of education of these areas”, replied Venkataramani.
“So you are saying his subjective satisfaction is enough,” said Justice Saran.
“You can’t play with the Constitution like this. There has to be some data,” observed Justice Mishra. “If we accept this, tomorrow there would be all-India chaos. Now we are at a such a stage that it’s very very difficult to administer the Constitution in it’s real sense.”
Justice Saran added that even the Constitution framers had not envisaged such a situation.
The bench also sought to know what results have been achieved from the more than two decade old “experiment”.
“You are providing 100 per cent reservation to tribals in that area. Two decades have passed. This should have solved the problem. Have you been able to solve it?” said Justice Mishra as the counsel mentioned that most of these areas fell in the Maoist-hit Red Corridor.
The bench said the problem was that the benefits were not percolating to those really deserving it.
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