The Supreme Court on Thursday, March 31, struck down the 10.5% internal reservation granted by the Tamil Nadu government to the Vanniyar community in 2021, and upheld a Madras High Court order. The Vanniyar community was given internal reservation under the existing 20% reservation given to Most Backward Classes (MBCs) by the Tamil Nadu government.
The court was hearing a batch of appeals against a Madras High Court order, which quashed the 10.5% reservation provided to Vanniyars, a Most Backward Community (MBC) in Tamil Nadu, in government jobs and admission to educational institutions. A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai observed that "caste can be the basis of internal reservation but it cannot be the sole basis."
“We are of the opinion that there is no basis to treat Vanniyars as a separate group compared to others. Thus the 2021 Act is ultra vires to Articles 14, 16 of the Constitution,” the Supreme Court bench held.
The court had reserved judgement on February 22, and had earlier refused to refer the issue to a larger bench, saying that it has perused the judgements submitted and was of the view that the issue does not need consideration by a larger bench. The batch of petitions were filed by Tamil Nadu state, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and others challenging the November 1, 2021 judgment of the High Court.
The Tamil Nadu Assembly had in February 2021 passed the Bill — piloted by the then ruling AIADMK — providing internal reservation of 10.5% for Vanniyars. Later, the incumbent DMK government issued an order in July 2021 for its implementation.
The Act had split the aggregate 20% reservation for MBCs and denotified communities into three separate categories by regrouping castes and provided a 10% plus sub-quota for Vanniyars, formerly known as Vanniakula Kshatriyas.
However, this reservation was later challenged in the Madras High Court. The Madras High Court, in November 2021, quashed the reservation stating that the reservation was “illegal in the eyes of law and in violation of the Constitution of India.”
Meanwhile, State Minister for Water Resources Durai Murugan said in a statement that the AIADMK had brought the reservation in a hasty manner without any basic data to substantiate the same, which led the Supreme Court's move to scrap the reservation. He pointed out that the special quota for Muslims and Arunthathiyar communities implemented during the DMK regime was properly done with data-backing, and therefore was accepted by all courts. “Further steps on this will be taken after consulting with legal experts,” he said.