This year (2019), in the month of January, the present government created an additional reservation of 10% over and above the Supreme Court of India prescribed limit of 49.5% reservation, for the Economically Backward Classes (EBCs). To give effect to this reservation, the Government passed 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 2019 (originally introduced as 124th Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2019).
However, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed against the action and as of today, the matter is sub-judice, and numbers of logics are given for and against this reservation. Especially, given the timing of the announcement, some also raise question about the political intention behind the move. By the way, the political angle is not for us to consider but let’s look into the various arguments given for or against.
Arguments in favour
- From the beginning, the founding fathers have been trying to establish a society which is egalitarian in nature. It was with this objective that the preamble was introduced, with the philosophy of social, economic & political justice for all.
- The framers of the Constitution and the Supreme Court of India both considered providing (i) equal economic opportunity, and (ii) commonly sharing the wealth of the nation, as utmost significant. It is because of these, Articles 14,15, 15(3), 15(4), 16, 16(4), 19(1), 38, 39(b), 39(c), 39(d), 41, 46 along with the provisions for reservation in 243(D), 243 (T), 330, 332, 334,335 found their way in the Constitution of India. In fact, the Minerva Mills verdict of the Supreme Court is especially note-worthy in this perspective.
- The constitution itself is completely silent about the quantum of seats to be reserved. The limit of 49.5% was given by the Supreme Court in M. R. Balaji vs State of Mysore, 1962. During that time there was no constitutional provision or amendment to counteract the court’s argument. Hence limit of 49.5% became applicable, which is not the case this time, with the passage of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act.
Arguments against it
- Article 15(4) and 16 (4) talks about “special provision” and ensures “adequate representation” for the reserved categories providing logical and legal basis for reservation in India. However, both of them ensure that ‘something extra’, in addition to the original provision, would be created. As far as logic goes, this additional figure cannot be more than the original figure, because if the additional figure is more than the original figure, it means the government’s calculation of the original figure was erroneous. Here we need to understand that the general seats are not reserved seats for the general category. They are open seats for everyone, since the logic says that the reserved categories are not adequately empowered to compete with the upper class/caste hence the additional seats are specially created and provided for the people belonging to the reserved categories.
- If the amount of reservation keeps on increasing, there is a fear of compromise on the ground of merit, given this, the amount of reservation should have a cap, keeping it to the minimum of 50%, the exact figure mentioned by the Supreme Court in M. R. Balaji Vs State of Mysore.
- Bringing economic justice in Indian society has been one of the basic objectives of the founding fathers, hence should also be followed by us, especially given the primacy granted to Article 39(b) & 39(c) over fundamental rights 14 and 19 in Minerva Mills case, 1980 by the Supreme Court. The same logic is applicable for reservation of seats for the economically backward section. However, provisions for this section of the population, were already made in the report of the Mandal Commission. Mandal Commission report gave adequate significance/weightage to social backwardness, educational backwardness and economic backwardness. Hence, the 35% population marked out by Mandal Commission also includes economically backward classes. It is including this economically backward section, Mandal Commission recommended 27% reservation, accepting the 49.5% limit on reservation set by the Supreme Court. Hence, the legal basis for providing reservation to the economically backward classes is there in recommendation to the Mandal Commission only but that does not breach the 49.5% reservation mark. If the govt. has failed in creating adequate space for the economically backward classes within the given limit, that is the failure of the government & not of the system.
- The increasing quota of reservation also creates a fear in the psychology of the so-called upper-class section of the population. We should keep in mind that reservation is a tool to rectify the historical wrongs, and while rectifying the wrongs, we should not make newer mistakes.
- If we keep on creating newer and newer quotas of reservation, the whole issue of reservation after a point of time (which have been an effective tool), would lose it’s significance. As a result after a point of time demands would rise from the various sections of the society to remove ‘reservation’ all together.
By the way, let’s be clear here, in this article, we have tried only to present in front of you, the various logics, given the requirement of Civil Services Examination in India. We are neither arguing in favour nor against the initiative. As the matter is sub-judice, we also refrained from analyzing these arguments, rather presented in front of the arguments as they are.