Patna High Court Strikes Down Bihar’s Increased Reservation Quotas

Patna 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 Constitution.

  1. Background:
  • The Bihar legislature, in 2023, approved an increase in reservation percentages for various categories:
    • Backward Classes
    • Extremely Backward Classes
    • Scheduled Castes
    • Scheduled Tribes
  • The reservation was raised from 50% to 65%, making Bihar the state with the highest reservation percentage (reaching a total of 75%).
  1. High Court’s Decision:
  • A division bench consisting of Chief Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Harish Kumar heard a series of writ petitions challenging the constitutional validity of this quota increase.
  • The court found that the new reservation laws violated Articles 14 (right to equality), 15 (prohibition of discrimination), and 16 (equality of opportunity) of the Constitution.
  • Notably, the Supreme Court had previously held that reservations beyond 50% would impact Article 14.
  1. Ninth Schedule Controversy:
  • Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had urged the central government to place Bihar’s reservation law in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.
  • Laws in the Ninth Schedule are immune from judicial review, but the Supreme Court clarified that even these laws could be subject to scrutiny.
  • Since Bihar’s reservation law wasn’t in the Ninth Schedule, the court took action against it.
  1. Supreme Court Precedent:
  • In the landmark Indira Sawhney case (1992), a Constitution Bench of nine judges held that reservation cannot exceed 50% under any circumstances.
  • Tamil Nadu, with 69% reservation, managed this by placing its law in the Ninth Schedule through a constitutional amendment.
Patna High Court

In summary, the Patna High Court’s decision strikes down Bihar’s ambitious reservation hike, emphasizing the delicate balance between social justice and constitutional limits. The state government may challenge this ruling, but for now, Bihar’s reservation law faces legal scrutiny.