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State Government has no authority to designate any class of people as socially and educationally backward for constitutional purposes: Kerala High Court

State Government has no authority to designate any class of people as socially and educationally backward for constitutional purposes is upheld by the Kerala High Court in the case of S.Kuttappan Chettiar v. State of Kerala (WP(C) No. 12575 of 2021) through Justice P. B. Suresh Kumar

FACTS OF THE CASE

The current petition was filed jointly by Petitioner 1 (who is the General Secretary of an organisation dedicated to uplifting socially and educationally disadvantaged classes) and Petitioner 2 (who is a member of the Ganaka community, one of the groups designated by the State as a socially and educationally disadvantaged class), to challenge the State Government’s order dated February 6, 2021, which affects Nadars in the State of Kerala who practise Christian religion.

The argument made by the petitioners is that the State Government is devoid of the authority to designate any class of people as socially and educationally backward for purposes of the Constitution due to the provision in Article 342-A introduced to the Constitution as part of the 102nd Amendment with effect from August 15, 2018. They argued that the impugned order was illegal because it violated Article 342-A since, in light of the aforementioned constitutional revision, it is the President’s responsibility to make such specifications.

The petitioners argued that the Supreme Court had clarified that lists of socially and educationally backward classes operating in the States would continue to hold the field until the President specifies the socially and educationally backward classes in relation to the States in accordance with the provision contained in Article 342-A. They cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil v. Chief Minister, 2021.

JUDGMENT

The Court determined that the inclusion of Nadars in the State who belong to Christian religious denominations in the list of socially and educationally backward classes was contrary to Article 342-A of the Constitution because the impugned order was issued after the 102nd Amendment to the Constitution.

In these circumstances, the Court was to decide whether the Supreme Court had saved the updates to the lists of socially and educationally disadvantaged groups operating in the States made after the 102nd Amendment to the Constitution and prior to the decision in the Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil case until the President specified the socially and educationally disadvantaged groups in relation to the States. The Court stated that it was clear from paragraph 670 of the ruling that lists of socially and educationally underprivileged classes would continue to hold sway until the President published the entire list.

In other words, the Supreme Court gave the directive in order to make sure that Article 342-A does not create a void regarding the right of socially and educationally disadvantaged classes to apply for benefits under Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution until the President identifies the socially and educationally disadvantaged classes.

After considering the above things, the Court came to the conclusion that the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil did not intend to protect the additions made to the lists of socially and educationally backward classes operating in the States following the 102nd amendment to the Constitution until the President specifies the socially and educationally backward classes. The contested order was therefore stayed and the petition was granted.

Accordingly, the Court held that only the President has the authority to designate the socially and educationally backward classes in relation to a State after due consultation with the Commission established under Article 338-B of the Constitution. Therefore, the State Government has no authority to designate any class of people as socially and educationally backward for constitutional purposes.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NISHTHA GARHWAL

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