Revocation of 10.5% reservation for Vanniyar community: How DMK's Duraimurugan and PMK's Anbumani reacted?

The Supreme Court's verdict of striking down the 10.5% reservation for the Vanniyar community by the previous ADMK regime has spurred heated reactions from the political leaders in the state. The apex court has on Thursday - March 31 quashed the reservation by declaring that it is unconstitutional and violates Articles 14 to 16 of the Indian Constitution. 

Ahead of the 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly polls, the previous ADMK regime had passed what has become a botched reservation for the Vanniyar community in a bid to reap their votes in the elections. The Vanniyar community was provided with the internal reservation under the existing 20% reservation given to Most Backward Classes (MBCs) by the Tamil Nadu government. While the ADMK government had passed the reservation, it was implemented in July 2021 by the DMK government. 

The reservation act has 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. However, the reservation was challenged in the Madras High Court and after the trial, the state's highest judicial body has in November 2021 revoked the reservation and declared that it was illegal in the eyes of law and in violation of the Constitution of India. 

After the reservation has faced a fiasco in the state, various stakeholders had challenged the Madras High Court's verdict in the Supreme Court. The bill was aimed to provide the reservation to Vanniyars in government jobs and admission to educational institutions. The apex court's bench consists of judges Justice L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai was hearing the batch of appeals that sought the directive to legalize the reservation.  

However, after the hearings, the Supreme Court bench has on Thursday upheld the verdict of the Madras High Court in revoking the reservation and declared that the latter was unconstitutional. The bench observed that caste can be the basis of internal reservation but it cannot be the sole basis. The Justices said, "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 to16 of the Constitution." 

The Supreme Court's verdict has come a month after reserving it. It has reserved the judgment on February 22 and it had earlier rejected the pleas to transfer the matter to a larger bench, by stating that the issue does not need consideration by a larger bench. It has been reported that the petitions were filed by Tamil Nadu state, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), which has a strong Vanniyar vote base, and other stakeholders who had challenged the order from the Madras High Court. 

Petitioners had argued that the Madras High Court's order was erroneous in law and the state legislature had the power to provide quota to bring a community into the mainstream. PMK's founder S Ramadoss had submitted that legislation unanimously passed by the state legislature enjoyed the presumption of constitutionality. However, the court has said that the state government has failed to provide data the Vanniyars had to be treated as a separate group within the backward castes.  

Reacting to the verdict, DMK's General Secretary and Tamil Nadu Water Resources Minister Duraimurugan said that the Supreme Court has scrapped the reservation due to a lack of data. He slammed the previous ADMK regime for hastily implementing the reservation in the view of elections without proper data and research. He highlighted how the earlier DMK government had properly implemented the special quota for Muslims and Arunthathiyar communities with accurate data. 

He further said that the state government would hold a consultation with legal experts and plan the future move regarding this reservation. On the other hand, PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss, whose party enjoys a strong voter base from the Vanniyar community, has said that he was disappointed by the Supreme Court's ruling. He urged the Tamil Nadu government to collect the data and pass legislation concerning the reservation. By citing that the lack of adequate data had turned down the matter, Anbumani has asserted that PMK will continue to protest for the reservation of the Vanniyar community.