"Core issue is of more disadvantaged within the disadvantaged", SC begins hearing on subclassification of reservations

Read Time: 05 minutes


The issue was referred to a 7-judge bench in August 2020 after the court noted that the EV Chinnaiah case, was heard by a five-judge bench of it.

A seven-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday began hearing the plea questioning whether sub-classification of the SCs and STs on account of reservations is constitutionally permissible.

The bench is also revisiting its previous ruling of a 5-Judge Bench in E.V. Chinnaiah vs. State of Andhra Pradesh.

Court would also be deciding if state legislatures are competent to introduce sub-classification within the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories.

Yesterday, a bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud along with Justices BR Gavai, Vikram Nath, Bela M Trivedi, Pankaj Mithal, Manoj Misra and Satish Chandra Sharma was told that reservation cannot be an act of benevolence, if at all, it is compensation for the years of suppression.

"We are victims of conditioning..we are made to believe that things are the way they are meant to be..we have to change the mindset, the problem is the resistance, it seems like a huge shift in the societal mindset to think that why can't everybody be equal..", the Punjab Advocate General Gurminder Singh further submitted before court.

Court was further told that the core issue is the more disadvantaged within the disadvantaged, and change has to come at grassroot level of society.

"If within a particular backward class, if certain class has reached a position and are at par, they should move out and make space for others...", the Supreme Court posed as a question as the hearing progressed.

In 1975, the Punjab government had issued a notification dividing its existing 25% reservation for Scheduled Castes (SC) into two categories, whereby half of these seats were to be offered to Valmikis and Mazhabi Sikhs. This notification continued to remain in effect for 31 years, until the SC’s five-judge bench decision in E.V. Chinnaiah vs. State of Andhra Pradesh set aside a similar law in Andhra Pradesh. Relying on Chinnaiah, the Punjab and Haryana HC struck down the Punjab notification in 2006. 

Later, the Punjab government passed the Punjab Scheduled Caste and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act, 2006 which was also struck down by the High Court in 2010. The state according approach the Supreme Court in appeal which is now being heard by a 7-judge bench.

Case Title: State of Punjab vs. Davinder Singh