Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of L. Nageswara Rao and Hima Kohli, JJ has held that the formulae for fixing the percentage of reservation for the SC and ST candidates and for determining the percentage of seats to be reserved for OBC candidates under the second proviso of Section 3 of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006, ought to be gathered from the same source and any other interpretation would lead to uncertainty.

Factual Background

The Court was hearing the appeal from the judgment of the Manipal High Court wherein it was held that after the amendment of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006 , in the year 2012, on introduction of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Amendment Act, 2012 , Manipur University is required to follow the reservation norms of 2% for the candidates belonging to Scheduled Caste, 31% for the Scheduled Tribes and 17% for the Other Backward Classes for purposes of admission in the University.

The candidates belonging to the SC category and had applied for admission in various Post Graduate courses, had questioned the purported reduction of the quota for SC category candidates from 15%, as prescribed in Section 3 of the Reservation Act to 2% and filed a writ petition in the High Court of Manipur. It was contended that the Amendment Act was legislated to ensure that reservation for SC and ST candidates as prescribed in Section 3 of the Parent Act, should not be reduced from the benchmark of 15% and 7.5% respectively. Rather, the Amendment Act contemplates that the percentage of reservation for SC and ST candidates earmarked in Section 3 of the Parent Act could be increased even to the detriment of the earmarked percentage of reservation for OBC candidates, to ensure that the overall limit of 50% reservation for SC and ST candidates taken collectively, is not disturbed in any manner.

Analysis

Observing that once the two provisos were inserted in Section 3 of the Parent Act by virtue of the Amendment Act, the general norms of reservation as laid down in Clauses (i), (ii) and (iii) of Section 3 of the Parent Act had to be restricted in terms of the said provisos, the Supreme Court gave the following explanation:

While the first proviso deals with “State seats”, if any, in a CEI situated in tribal areas referred to in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, the second proviso addresses a situation where there are no State seats in a CEI and the seats reserved for the SC/ST candidates exceeds the percentage specified under Clauses (i) and (ii) of Section 3 (viz., 15% seats for SCs plus 7.5% for STs, totalling to 22.5% seats) or if the combined seats reserved for the SC and ST candidates exceeds the sum total of the percentage as specified under Clauses (i) and (ii).

Two riders have also been dovetailed in the second proviso to Section 3, namely Clauses (a) and (b).

    • Clause (a) of the second proviso, contemplates a situation where seats referred to in the second proviso are less than 50% of the annual permitted strength on the date immediately preceding the date of commencement of the Amendment Act.
    • Clause (b) provides for a situation where such seats are over 50% of the annual permitted strength on the date immediately preceding the date of commencement of the Amendment Act.

In a situation contemplated in Clause (a) of the second proviso, a restriction has been imposed on the total percentage of seats required to be reserved for OBC candidates under Section 3(iii) of the Parent Act by limiting them to the balance seats available after factoring in the combined percentage of seats specified in Clauses (i) and (ii) of Section 3 of the Parent Act, falling short of 50% of the annual permitted strength.

But in circumstances contemplated in Clause (b), the Act recognizes the fact that no seats need be reserved for the OBC candidates under Clause (iii) of Section 3 of the Parent Act. However, this is subject to the condition that the extent of reservation of seats for SC and ST candidates shall not be reduced when it comes to CEIs established in “Specified north eastern region”.

“This goes to demonstrate that the underlying intent of the Amendment Act was to secure a particular percentage of seats through reservation for a set of candidates and leave some space for capping of seats for OBC candidates, depending on the circumstances contemplated in Clauses (a) and (b) of the second proviso to the amended Section 3.”

The Court, hence, held that the reference point of the period for determining the reservation quota for OBC candidates must be the same as that of the SC and ST candidates for the simple reason that for working out the reservation quota for OBC candidates would necessarily require one to find out in the first instance, as to what would be the difference between 50% of the annual permitted strength and the combined existing percentage for the SC and ST candidates, as obtained on the date immediately preceding the date of commencement of the Reservation Act.

It was observed that,

“Both the issues are so interlaced that to determine the percentage of reservation for OBC candidates, one would have to undertake an exercise of determining the percentage of seats to be reserved for SC and ST candidates, all within the four corners of the second proviso inserted in Section 3 of the Parent Act. Any other interpretation sought to be assigned to the second proviso to Section 3 inserted post-amendment, would make the proviso itself unworkable and redundant and is, therefore, impermissible.”

The Court made clear that the general rules of reservation have been encapsulated in Clauses (i), (ii) and (iii) of Section 3 of the Parent Act. But when it comes to CEIs established in States falling under the definition of “Specified north eastern region”, categorized in Section 2(ia) introduced by the Amendment Act, the two new provisos appended to Section 3 would govern the norms of reservation which prescribes a different criteria, vis-à-vis the main provision and would apply irrespective of whether they are situated in areas covered by the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution or not.

[Shri Kshetrimayum Maheshkumar Singh v. Manipal University, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 12, decided on 05.01.2022]


*Judgment by: Justice Hima Kohli


Counsels

For appellant: Advocate Punam Kumari

For Respondents: Advocates Ashutosh Dubey, Shivendra Dwivedi