Maratha Reservation Case Judgment and Federalism

Synopsis:  Recently Supreme Court declared the reservation to the Maratha community in education and public employment as unconstitutional. This judgment is against federalism.

What were the reasons given by the Supreme Courts’ five-judge Bench?
  • One, the Maratha community did not constitute a socially and educationally backward class.
  • Two, the law is against Indra Sawhney judgment. In Indra Sawhney case the court has disallowed reservations made in excess of 50% of the total available positions.
  • Third, the State governments had no independent power to declare a group as a backward class.
What are the issues in the interpretation provided by the Supreme Courts’ five-judge Bench?

The reasoning that it violates Indra Sawhney judgment and State governments had no independent power to declare a group as a backward class is against the values of equality and federalism.

  • First, the cap of 50% on the reservation of  Indra Sawhney judgment does not come from the constitution. Articles 16(4) and 15(4) confer power on the government to make reservations, contains no such limitation.
    • Also, in State of Kerala vs N.M. Thomas (1975), the seven-judge bench held that reservation was inherent in the Constitution’s basic guarantee of equal treatment. This statement by the state high court contradicts the principle of capping reservation at 50%.
  • Second, the court’s interpretation that states do not have the power to declare groups as backward classes is misleading.
    • The 102nd Constitutional Amendment Act forms the basis of court’s ruling.
    • After the 102nd Constitutional Amendment Act granted constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes, Article 342A, Article 366(26C) were introduced.
      • Article 342A stipulates that President may, notify groups of persons within a State deemed to be socially and educationally backward, after consultation with the state.
      • Further, Article 342A states that Central lists could be altered only by the Parliament.
      • Article 366(26C) defines  “socially and educationally backward classes” as such backward classes identified under Article 342A.
    • Based on the provision of Article 342A, a majority on the Bench had made  erroneous interpretation that, the Centre is empowered to identify socially and educationally backward classes similar to the preparation of the lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and not the states.
    • However, the five-bench ruling of the supreme court has overlooked two essential factors,
      • One, the term “Central List” in Article 342A refers to the categorisation of groups as backward for the purposes of reservation of posts and seats under the Union government’s control only. It does not affect states power to categorise backward classes for promoting reservations in State’s domain.
      • Two, the Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment had earlier clarified that Article 342 doesn’t take away the state’s right to include or remove classes from the List.
Way forward
  • The court’s decision in denying the right to recognize backward classes by states directly impede their ability to secure just social order.
  • Hence, the Parliament should amend the Constitution and grants to States an express power to determine backwardness.

Source: The Hindu

Important Judgments

Print Friendly and PDF