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The Uttarakhand High Court maintains a 30% quota for women with domicile in state civil services, in violation of Article 16(2).

In the case of Ananya Attri and others v. State of Uttarakhand and another and connected matter, A government decision from 2006 that attempted to give 30 percent horizontal reservation only to women candidates residing in Uttarakhand in the area of public employment has been suspended by the Uttarakhand High Court. The Court said that a horizontal reservation would continue to be in effect for women candidates regardless of their “domicile” or “place of abode,” staying the implementation of the government order to the extent it provided reservations to solely the state’s women candidates. The Court’s decision was supported by its initial conclusion that the government directive violated Article 16(2) of the Indian Constitution. It should be noted that Article 16 (2) effectively states that no citizen shall be denied the right to employment or office by the State on the basis of their religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, or residency alone, or any combination of these factors. The State Government cannot, just by issuing a government order, provide for a reservation for female candidates based on their domicile in matters pertaining to public service in the State, the Court emphatically stated.

FACTS: In essence, a writ suit filed by Pavitra Chauhan, Ananya Attri, and others from outside the state who fall within the unreserved category and took the state civil examination was being heard by a bench consisting of Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice R S Khulbe. They claimed that despite earning more points in the state civil examination preliminary test than the required score (79) for female applicants with state residency, they were not allowed to take the main exam. In order to do this, they challenged two GOS on the grounds that they give horizontal reservation [in the examination held for the posts of Uttarakhand Combined Service, Senior Service of the State Public Service Commission] based on the candidates’ “domicile” in the State of Uttarakhand. They specifically argued that under Article 16(1) of the Indian Constitution, all citizens must have an equal opportunity to be employed or appointed to any office under the state and that the state cannot give a group of citizens preferential treatment merely on the basis of domicile, as the state government sought to do. Additionally, it was claimed that denying them entry to the main exam despite the fact that they received more marks than the threshold for female applicants with state domicile constituted discrimination against them. Finally, it was argued that in accordance with Article 16 (2), only the Parliament had the authority to provide domicile-based reservations, and that the state government has no jurisdiction to do so.

JUDGEMENT: The Court ordered the Commission to allow the petitioners to appear in the Mains Examination provisionally and ordered the Government Order dated 24.07.2006 to be put on hold inasmuch as it seeks to give 30 percent horizontal reservation exclusively in respect of women candidates from Uttarakhand. The matter was listed for final disposition on October 11, 2022, and notices were also sent to the state government and the UKPSC.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY SNIGDHA DUBEY.

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