Bihar's 65% Reservation Law Violates Equality Clause, Rules High Court

Bihar's 65% Reservation Law Violates Equality Clause, Rules High Court

Patna - The Patna High Court has ruled that the Bihar Reservation of Vacancies in Posts and Services (Amendment) Act, 2023, and the Bihar (In Admission in Educational Institutions) Reservation (Amendment) Act, 2023, are ultra vires and violative of the equality clause under Articles 14, 15, and 16 of the Indian Constitution. This decision follows the Bihar legislature's 2023 approval to increase reservations for Backward Classes, Extremely Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes from 50% to 65%. The court's ruling on Thursday effectively nullifies this 65% reservation policy.

The court's decision was based on the precedent set by the Supreme Court in 1992, which held that reservations exceeding 50% would violate Article 14, ensuring the right to equality. Despite attempts by various states to increase quotas for specific communities, such as Jats, Marathas, and Muslims, the 50% cap has consistently been upheld. In 2021, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court reaffirmed this stance in the Indra Sawhney case, emphasizing that exceeding the 50% reservation limit would undermine a society based on equality and lead to caste-based governance.

In March, a division bench comprising Chief Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Harish Kumar reserved their judgment on several writ petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the increased quota. The Patna High Court's recent decision aligns with previous judicial findings, reinforcing the principle that reservation policies must adhere to the 50% limit to maintain societal equality.

Notably, similar legal challenges have arisen in other states. Last year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court invalidated the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act, 2020, which provided a 75% reservation in state industries for Haryana residents, further demonstrating the judiciary's commitment to upholding the reservation cap.

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