The Telangana Government is set to file a review petition challenging the April 22 Supreme Court judgment that invalidated 100% reservations for Scheduled Tribes (ST) for teaching posts in schools in the scheduled areas. Tribal and human rights activists have termed the order as regressive and said that it undermines the rights of the adivasis.
Amid the ensuing lockdown, the judgment was delivered through video conferencing by a five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, quashing the government order (GO) issued by the Governor of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh in 2000. The court’s order reiterated the 1992 Indira Sawhney judgment which held that constitutionally valid reservations cannot go beyond 50%. The judgment will impact the two Telugu-speaking states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
The GO no. 3, dated January 10, 2000, issued by the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh provided 100% reservation to the ST candidates in schools in scheduled areas out of whom 33.3% posts were reserved for women. However, the GO has been contentious for the last 20 years which was challenged by numerous petitioners, first in Andhra Pradesh High Court and subsequently in Supreme Court.
Speaking to NewsClick, Sarveshwar Reddy, Additional Secretary, Telangana Tribal Welfare Department said that the state government will file a review petition in the coming days marking the legal errors in the judgment as it will have multiple consequences affecting the rights of nearly 10 lakh STs in scheduled areas.
“Firstly, the 100% reservations for STs in scheduled areas was brought in place as a result of numerous tribal agitations aiming for improving literacy among tribes and their upliftment. The appointed tribal teachers were able to teach in the mother tongues of tribes such as Koya, Lambada and so on. Over the years, there have been improvements in attendance percentages and literacy rates among the communities,” said Sarveshwar Reddy. He added that there are special provisions giving similar reservations for STs in Group D or class four level posts in 23 other state departments including Forest and Animal Husbandry departments in scheduled areas and reservations for sarpanches which have encouraged tribal communities towards upliftment. “Now, all these reservations will come under question due to the judgement and hence the state government will challenge it based on appropriate legalities,” he told NewsClick.
Numerous tribal and human rights organisations are raising concerns over the apex court order.
“The Telangana government’s decision to file the review petition is appreciable and need of the hour as it is considering the concerns of STs on reservations to protect their rights,” said Eslavath Ramchander Naik, state working president, All India Banjara Seva Sangh told NewsClick. He said, “100% reservations for STs in scheduled areas has promoted educational development of tribals. Now, the Supreme Court’s judgment may cause unrest among tribal communities as it will have implications across the existing practice of recruitment across government departments in scheduled areas.”
In a press statement, Human Rights Forum has stated that the apex court’s contention on 100% reservations for STs based on 1992 Indra Sawhney was plainly invalid. Urging both the Telugu state government to immediately challenge the court order, the organisation noted, “The motivation for the 100% reservation to local STs is located in Article 46 of the Directive Principles of the Constitution. It is laid out there that the State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and, in particular, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.”