Patna High Court strikes down 65% quota in Bihar

Patna High Court strikes down 65% quota in Bihar


The Patna High Court overturned the 2023 amendments increasing reservation from 50% to 65% for Backward Classes (BC), Extremely Backward Classes (EBC), Scheduled Castes (SC), and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in Bihar’s educational institutions and government jobs.

GS-02 (Polity)


  • The decision was made by a Division Bench led by Chief Justice K.V. Chandran in response to multiple petitions challenging the legislation.
  • The advocate, representing the petitioners, argued that the decision was based on caste proportions from a survey rather than actual representation in government jobs, and referenced the Supreme Court’s 50% reservation cap from the Indira Sawhney case.
  • The Bihar Assembly had unanimously passed the Bill on November 9, 2023, which, including a 10% Economically Backward Class (EWS) quota, would have raised total reservations to 75%.

Indra Sawhney Case and Subsequent Developments:

  1. Indra Sawhney Case (1992):
  • The Supreme Court upheld a 27% quota for backward classes but struck down a 10% reservation for economically backward classes among higher castes.
  • The Court established a 50% ceiling on total reservations.
  • The concept of the ‘creamy layer’ emerged, restricting reservation benefits to initial appointments only, not promotions.
  1. Breach of the 50% Limit by States:
  • Several states, including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Haryana, have laws exceeding the 50% reservation cap.
  • Tamil Nadu’s 1993 Reservation Act provides 69% reservation.
  • The 2018 Maharashtra SEBC Act grants 12%-13% quota for Marathas, pushing the state’s reservation beyond 50%.
  • Andhra Pradesh’s 100% reservation for STs in certain teaching posts was ruled unconstitutional.
  1. States’ Concerns and Arguments:
  • States like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka argue that the 50% limit is not fixed and needs re-evaluation.
  • They contend that the 2018 amendment establishing the National Commission for Backward Classes interferes with state powers.
  • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment stated that states can maintain separate lists for SEBCs, while the central list is Parliament’s domain.

Constitutional Amendments Related to Reservation:

  • 77th Amendment (1995): Allowed reservations in promotions for SC/ST employees.
  • 81st Amendment (2000): Allowed carry-forward of unfilled SC/ST vacancies without affecting the next year’s regular vacancies.
  • 85th Amendment (2001): Permitted reservation in promotions with ‘consequential seniority’ from 1995.
  • 103rd Amendment (2019): Introduced 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
  • Article 335: Mandates consideration of SCs and STs’ claims while maintaining administrative efficiency in Union or State appointments.