Bihar Government Appeals to Supreme Court Over Quota Hike Reversal

In a significant legal development, the Bihar government has approached the Supreme Court to challenge the Patna High Court’s decision that struck down the state’s recent legislation to increase reservation quotas. The state sought to raise the reservation for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) from the longstanding cap of 50% to 65%.

This legal maneuver follows the High Court’s June 20 judgment, which ruled the Bihar Reservation of Vacancies in Posts and Services (for SCs, STs, and OBCs) (Amendment) Act, 2023, and the Bihar (In Admission in Educational Institutions) Reservation (Amendment) Act, 2023, as unconstitutional. The court deemed these amendments “ultra vires” of the Constitution, asserting they were “bad in law” and breached the equality clause.

The high court’s decision was influenced by the landmark Supreme Court ruling in the Indra Sawhney case, which established the 50% ceiling on reservations. The Bihar High Court highlighted that the state government justified the quota hike based on population proportions, without presenting extenuating circumstances that would warrant an exception to the established cap.

The controversy began when the Bihar legislature, in November last year, unanimously passed the amendments following a state-commissioned caste survey. This survey reported that OBCs and Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) together constituted approximately 63% of the state’s population, while SCs and STs made up over 21%.

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This legislative attempt was largely seen as a response to the central government’s reluctance to conduct a new caste-based census, which has not been updated since 1931. The state government’s push for higher quotas was meant to better align governmental representation and educational opportunities with the demographic realities of Bihar.

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