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Reservation-Changing Aspect In Modern Time

Written by: Rajesh Punia - Student of III year B.B.A LL.B, Symbiosis Society’s Law College, Pune
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  • Reservation as subject in the Indian society is not a new one. It was running even from the pre-independence times. The Britishers for their colonies initially used this concept in the name of welfare purposes but the main aim behind this was to control the power by dividing the individuals for the personal interest i.e. the policy of DIVIDE & RULE. By the Government of India Act 1909 and 1919, the British Empire allotted some reservation or quota for Muslims and other minority classes in the administration according to the proportion of their population.

    From this historical backgrounds, this doesn’t means that reservation or quota system is a vice for the Indian society but the importance of reservation was considered in welfare prospective by the framers of Indian Constitution. This was felt that it is important to make certain provisions which deals in the upliftment of poor and depressed classes. So in the part IV of the Indian Constitution i.e. Directive Principles of State some provisions were made which works as guidelines for good governance.

    Legislature and Judiciary on Quota System

    The implementation of reservation or quota system for backward classes for their upliftment was not carried out smoothly. The Congress government headed by the then Prime Minister Pt. J.L. Nehru felt unable to implement the policies of Planning Commission whose one of the objectives at that time (1951-56) was to raising the standard of living of people especially the people belongs to backward classes because these policies to some extent infringes the fundamental rights provided under Article 14, 15, 16, 21 etc.

    In State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan, a seven Judge Bench of the Supreme Court struck down the classification for allotting seats in the State medical colleges as being based on caste, race and religion for the purpose of admission to educational institutions in the ground that Art. 15 did not contain a clause such as Art 16(4).

    To overcome this decision, by the 1st Amendment in 1951, the legislature added Clause 4 in Art. 15. Clause 4 says that the state is not prevented from making any special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
    By this provision the legislature overcome the judicial decision and makes reservation or Quota for the backward classes. The reservation was initially provided for the period of 10 years that has being extended from time to time. Till 1980 the reservation was generally provided for SCs and STs but after the Mandal Commission Report on Reservation the provision is also granted 27% reservation for the other Backward Classes in jobs as well as in the higher education . After this lots of litigations were filed on the matter the reservation for other backward classes including the order of the then P.V. Narasimha Rao’s government in 1991, which provided the reservation of 10% for Other Economic Backward Classes (OEBC). The Supreme Court to curb the overall percentage of reservation in the educational as well as in public jobs fixed the maximum limit upto 50%.

    Conflict Over Reservation

    At the time of independence of India, the living conditions of backward classes specially of SC’s and ST’s was so pathetic and in order to uplift them and help them to establish in the new environment, government provided them quota or reservation facilities specially in educational institution and public jobs. But now after 59 years of independence anti-reservation supporters feel that now it is the right time to strike down the policy of reservation or atleast lessens the percentage especially in educational institution. Presently in almost all Universities and Colleges, reservation is provided upto 50% and only 50% seats where left to the general category. With backward classes, some more reservation given to the minority groups, women, handicapped, state quota etc. in the Universities.

    This a very debatable issue that whether reservation should be provided in higher educational institutes which produces the leaders and intellectuals who will governs the country. Due to the quota system the reserved candidates preferred over the high merit candidates. In this globalizing and technological period should these reservations be maintained as it is in the past? On this issue different people have different opinion according to their individual interest. But this thing was clear that with the time the reservation has been increasing. In the period of 60s and 70s the reservations was only provided for SCs and STs but now after Mandal Commission report the reservation percentage has increased.. By the Supreme Court Judgment in Indra Sawhney’s case, the creamy layer is excluded from the reservation but it doesn’t work on SCs and STs. To avoid the competition, the formula of forged documents for proving backward class status is also prevailing. The State by its executive order provides reservation in the state institutions as they want and also sometimes overturns the judicial decisions they repeatedly make laws or amends the existing law as happened in the Tamil Nadu in 1994 by providing total 69% reservation and recently by UPA government by providing 27% reservation for OBC’s in Higher educations like IITs and IIMs. So in one line, from time to time the political party who are in the power use reservation policy for their political interests.

    Also it is considered that the higher institutions like IIMs, IITs produces the leaders who governs the country by their excellence and by reservation for backward classes in these types of institutions affects its standards.

    The reservation policy that we have been applying from past five decades needs some changes. It is taken as a fact that these backward classes had exploited and undermined from many thousand years and just 59 years of the independence is a very short period to rehabilitate all the Backward classes but it doesn’t means that those castes or communities which gets the sufficient upliftment opportunities in various fields should be favored for the reservation or quota especially in education prospective. From the 1st amendment to till date no class or caste is considered to achieve the sufficient opportunities to survive but with the time the list of Backward Classes is rising. Its sound so different that in one hand we talk about the development of nation and on the other hand the list under reservation is rising day by day.

    There are many classes that really need the reservations in public jobs and educations but in reality those people who attain the standard to live in a society mainly use reservation policy. So the classification is based on the class legislation that primarily defeated the object of reasonable classification. So the Concept of Equality and the Reasonable Classification is not achieved properly. The classification must always rest upon some real and substantial distinction bearing a just and reasonable relation to the object sought to be achieved by the legislation. Now the time has arrived which calls to change the prospective of reservation in the favour of really needed economic and poor backward classes by implementing the core concept of social welfare and social justice system.

    End Notes
    # Moments in a History of Reservations, Bhagwan Das, Economic &Political Weekly, 28 Oct. 2000
    # Art. 46, Promotion Of educational and economic interests of Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribe and Other weaker sections.- The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
    # Also see, Part XVI, Special Provision Relating To Certain Classes, Constitution Of India.
    # Article 14: Equality before law (Right to equality)
    # Article 15: Prohibition of Discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
    # Article 16: Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
    # Article 21: Protection of Life and Personal liberty.
    # See also Prof. M.P. Jain, Indian Constitutional Law, 5th Edition, Rep 2005, Wadhwa and Co. Nagpur
    # AIR 1951 SC 226. Also, Jagwant Kaur v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1952 Bom. 461

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