Patna High Court Overturns Bihar's Reservation Amendments

Mainstream
20-Jun-2024
blog-img

In a significant verdict, the Patna High Court on Thursday nullified the 2023 amendments passed by the Bihar legislature aimed at increasing reservation for Backward Classes, Extremely Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes (SC/STs) from 50% to 65%.


A division bench comprising Chief Justice K Vinod Chandran and Justice Harish Kumar delivered the ruling in response to a series of petitions challenging the amendments. The petitioners argued that the amendments violated the principle of equal opportunity in employment and education.


The amendments, encapsulated in the Bihar Reservation of Vacancies in Posts and Services (Amendment) Act, 2023, and The Bihar (In Admission in Educational Institutions) Reservation (Amendment) Act, 2023, were deemed ultra vires the constitution. The Court held that the amendments breached the equality clauses under Articles 14, 15, and 16 of the Indian Constitution.


In their ruling, the judges emphasized that the reservation policy should not undermine the constitutional mandate of equality. The Court noted, "The amendments as proposed infringe upon the right to equal opportunity for all citizens, as enshrined in the Constitution."


The Bihar legislature had argued that the amendments were based on data indicating a disproportionately low representation of SC/ST and other backward classes in government services. As a result, the reservation quota for these groups was increased to 65%, significantly reducing the share for the open merit category to 35%.


The amended reservation structure for direct recruitment to services and posts was specified as follows:

  1. Open Merit Category: 35%

  2. Reserved Category: 65%

  • Scheduled Castes: 20%

  • Scheduled Tribes: 2%

  • Extremely Backward Class: 25%

  • Backward Class: 18%


Similarly, the reservation structure for admission to state-aided educational institutions was aligned with the same percentages.


The Court’s decision to set aside these amendments marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing debate over reservation policies in India. The judges pointed out that the substantial increase in reservation percentages not only violates the principle of equal opportunity but also disrupts the balance intended by the Constitution.


"The amendments go beyond the permissible limits of reservation and upset the balance of equal opportunity in employment and education sectors," the Court stated.  This ruling is expected to have far-reaching implications on similar reservation policies across the country. The Bihar government is now tasked with reconsidering its approach to ensuring fair representation of all communities while adhering to constitutional provisions.


As the State contemplates its next steps, this decision reinforces the judiciary's role in safeguarding constitutional mandates against legislative overreach.


Author: Anushka Taraniya

News Writer