Supreme Court of India bench has upheld the Madras High Court (HC) judgement quashing the Tamil Nadu government’s 10.5% special internal reservation for Vanniyars within the most backward castes (MBCs).


Who are ‘Vanniyars’?

  • Vanniyars are one of the largest and most consolidated backward communities in the state of Tamil Nadu (TN).
  • According to the first TN Backward Classes Commission report (1970), the population of Vanniyars in TN was large in the northern districts (Salem, Dharmapuri, Trichirappalli, Thanjavur, etc) and very sparse in the southern districts.
  • In the mid-1980s, Vanniyars staged massive protests demanding 20% reservation in state and 2% reservation in central educational institutions and services.


What was the issue?

  • Some of the non-Vanniyar MBC groups challenged the Tamil Nadu law to grant special internal reservations within the MBC quota to Vanniyars in the Madras High Court.
  • In November 2021, the Madras High Court quashed the Tamil Nadu law that granted internal reservation at 10.5% to Vanniyars.


Arguments of the court

  • The High Court’s decision to quash the law was based on the ground that the:
      • State has no legislative competence on the matter and
      • Special reservation was provided with caste as basis and without quantifiable data on the socio-educational status of those castes.
      • The bench also noted that while caste can be a basis for such internal reservation, it cannot be the sole basis, as declared by the SC in the Indra Sawhney case (1992).
  • Thus, the 2021 Act is unconstitutional as it violates following Articles of the Indian Constitution –
      • Articles 14: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
      • Article 15: The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
      • Article 16: There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.