Hon'ble Supreme Court has reiterated that the preferential treatment or concessions granted to SC/ST, backward classes, persons with disabilities and de-notified communities is within the concept of equality and is in furtherance of the constitutional obligation of the State to the under-privileged and to create an equal level-playing field.
In the instant case the 5% marks concessions granted by the Tamil Nadu State to the reserved categories in State Teachers Eligibility Tests conducted under the NCTE guidelines was under challenge. The division bench comprising Justice Siva Kirti Singh and Justice R Banumati was considering a batch of appeals on conflicting judgments from Principal and Madurai Bench of Madras High Court concerning appointment of secondary grade teachers and B.T. assistants in Tamil Nadu as per the guidelines prescribed by the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE).
Hon'ble SC Bench observed that “The idea behind laying down NCTE guidelines for conducting TET was to bring about uniformity and certainty in the standards and quality of education being imparted to the students across the nation. However, at the same time the framers of the guidelines took note of the huge socioeconomic disparity existing in the nation and accordingly, by virtue of Clause No. 9 enabled the respective state governments/authorities to provide relaxation to the candidates belonging to socially backward classes.”
Hon'ble Bench expressed that the Constitution of India has made adequate enabling provisions empowering the State to promote reservation/concessions. Special provisions are made for advancement of the socially and economically backward classes. These provisions will bring out the contents of equality of opportunity guaranteed under Articles 14, 15 (1), 16 (1) of the Constitution of India by creating equal level-playing field.
Hon'ble Court made a reference to M. Nagaraj and Others vs. Union of India and Others (2006) 8 SCC 212, wherein the Constitution Bench held as follows:-
“47. Equality of opportunity has two different and distinct concepts. There is a conceptual distinction between a non-discrimination principle and affirmative action under which the State is obliged to provide a level-playing field to the oppressed classes. Affirmative action in the above sense seeks to move beyond the concept of non-discrimination towards equalizing results with respect to various groups. Both the conceptions constitute “equality of opportunity”.”
The Bench also made a reference to State of Madhya Pradesh and Anr. Vs. Kumari Nivedita Jain and Others (1981) 4 SCC 296 wherein it was eloquently stated that the grant of relaxation is for the upliftment of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and other backward communities.
The bench also indicated that in a similar case wherein Rajasthan High Court upheld the challenge to relaxation to reserved categories, the Hon'ble SC had reversed the Rajasthan High Court judgement in the matter titled Vikas Sankhala and Ors. v. Vikas Kumar Agarwal and Ors. Etc. (2016) 10 SCALE 163.
The bench held that such a provision is in line with the principles enshrined in the Constitution and state government cannot be faulted for discharging its constitutional obligation of upliftment of socially and economically backward communities by providing 5% relaxation to candidates belonging to scheduled caste, scheduled tribes, backward classes, most backward classes, de-notified communities and persons with disability (PWD).
The bench also rejected the contention that the government has changed the rules of selection. “It is not the case where a basic eligibility criterion has been altered in the midst of the selection process.” “By granting relaxation of 5% marks in TET for reserved categories only, the eligibility criterion is neither altered nor is any prejudice caused to the appellants.”
The Hon'ble bench finally held that Madras High Court principal bench rightly rejected the challenge to G.O.(Ms.) No.25 dated 06.02.2014 and G.O.(Ms.) No. 71 dated 30.05.2014, holding that as per the NCTE guidelines, the state government has the power to grant relaxation on marks obtained in TET to candidates belonging to reserved category and the same is affirmed.
To read the judgement click here:
Civil Appeal No. 10700/2016 titled V. Lavanya & Ors Versus State of Tamil Nadu & Ors. (Arising out of SLP (C) No. 29245/2014)