Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court today quashed a state ordinance on 10 per cent quota for economically backward classes among the unreserved category, in a setback to BJP government which had taken the step to pacify the agitating Patel community.
Terming the ordinance issued on May 1 as "inappropriate and unconstitutional", a division bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi said that such quota is not a classification, as claimed by the government, but it is indeed reservation.
The court also observed that 10 percent reservation for poor among the unreserved category takes the total quota beyond 50 percent, which is not permitted as per the Supreme Court's earlier decision.
The high court also said that state government gave the reservation to EBCs without any study or scientific data.
The state government pleader requested the court to stay its order so that they can approach Supreme Court, following which the HC issued a two-week stay on its order.
Petitioners Dayaram Verma, Ravjibhai Manani, Dulari Basarge and Gujarat Parents' Association had separately challenged the ordinance announcing reservation of 10 percent seats to candidates belonging to the unreserved category with family income cap of Rs 6 lakh annually in government jobs and educational institutions.
Their petitions were heard together. The petitioners submitted before the court that the reservation violates the Supreme Court's order providing 50 percent ceiling for quota in the Indra Sawhney vs Union of India case.
They said that additional 10 per cent reservation reduced the number of seats in educational institutions for candidates from unreserved category with annual family income of more than Rs 6 lakh.
They said the provision violates the Constitution as Article 46, which is about the directive principles of state policy, does not allow quota beyond the 50 percent cap.
The government pleader told the court that the reservation is actually "a further classification in the general, open, unreserved category" and does not violate either Supreme Court order or Constitutional provisions.
The state government, in its affidavit before the HC, said the ordinance does not violate provisions of the Constitution nor does it go against the Supreme Court orders.
"The ordinance should be read with Article 46 of Constitution (which states that social justice is required for weaker sections of society) and not with reference to Backward Class quota," the affidavit said.
On 1 May, the state had issued the ordinance providing 10 per cent reservation to persons from economically weaker sections from unreserved category, other than the SC, ST and OBC, for admissions in educational institutions and government jobs.
The reservation is applicable to persons with annual family income cap of Rs 6 lakh.
The BJP government has been facing violent protests led by Hardik Patel and Lalji Patel from the numerically and socially strong Patel community which is seeking reservation in education and government jobs under the OBC category and the odinance was seen as an attempt to pacify them.
The BJP had suffered heavy losses in the rural local bodies polls, which were blamed on the Patel quota stir.