The Madras High Court has asked why the Tamil Nadu Government should not extend reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to the poor among the forward castes also.
Justice P Kirubakaran raised this question while passing an interim order on a batch of petitions filed by 14 forward caste students who could not admission to MBBS course because the seats for their category has been transferred to the Other Backward Castes and Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
This is because Tamil Nadu has the highest quota in the country, namely 69 per cent of which 50 is for the backward and the most backward and 19 per cent for Scheduled Castes and Tribes as per their population.
This leaves only 31 percent in the open category. Here again, the forward castes have to compete with those in the reserved categories who are also entitled to vie for these merit seats .
Justice Kirubakaran said : "The poor, in the so-called forward communities, have been neglected so far and no one could speak about them fearing protest voices in the name of social justice." Social justice should be extended to every section of the , the judge said.3
Extending reservation to the deserving poor among the forward communities should not be seen as an opposition to quota for backward castes and other oppressed castes like Dalits, the judge said.
The petitioners sought a direction to declare transfer of MBBS seats in government medical colleges meant for open category to BC and MBC categories as illegal, arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
The judge posed a set of 10 searching questions to the State Government and sought its response.
He asked how many forward communities are there in the State and how many are in the backward and most Backward Classes, besides Scheduled castes and Scheduled Tribes .He wanted the government to verify whether reservation benefits have reached the said communities from 1950 onwards.
The judge asked the Government whether it would be possible to make reservation for the poor among the forward communities.
Observing that many get fake community certificates for getting reservation benefits, the court wanted to know what steps the government was taking to prevent this.
The judge has stirred a hornet's nest by raising such uncomfortable questions because the both the DMK and the AIADMK have jacked up the quota from a mere 15 per cent in the 1970s to the present 69 percent reservation. It is under challenge in the Supreme court as violative of the Supreme Court judgment in the Mandal Case that the overall percentage should not exceed 50.
Pending disposal of that case, the Supreme Court by an interim order directs the government every year to increase the medical seats by 19 percent, that is above the 50 percent limit, and allot them to the meritorious. This is the first time that the affected students have approached the high court for relief.
The idea of providing reservation for poor among the forward communities on the basis of family income was considered by MGR in the 1980s. But DMK president M Karunanidhi and DK leader K Veeramani launchd a violent agitation against it. And MGR not only dropped the idea, but went to the other extreme by increasing the quote from 35 percent to 50 which Jayalalitha later brought to 69.