Caste Based Politics: The Biggest Hurdle of Indian Democratic Set-Up

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The Supreme Court in Ram Singh & Ors. Versus Union of India has recently ruled that Jat community is not eligible to be included in the central list of other backward classes. A bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman quashed the Notification published in the Gazette of India dated 04.03.2014 by which the Jat Community has been included in the Central List of Backward Classes for the States of Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, NCT of Delhi, Bharatpur and Dholpur districts of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

It is important to note here that the said Notification was issued pursuant to the decision taken by the Union Cabinet on 02.03.2014 to reject the advice tendered by the National Commission for Backward Classes (N.C.B.C.) to the contrary on the ground that the said advice “did not adequately take into account the ground realities”. It is needless to say that report of N.C.B.C. is based on a peer reviewed process and its expert-committee does elaborate research. The decision for inclusion was made to gain electoral advantages and was actuated by political motives. It is evident from the fact that the publication of the notification was made on 04.03.2014 when the General Elections were notified on the next day i.e. 05.03.2014.

The National Commission of Backward Classes Act, 1993 was enacted following the decision of this Court in Indra Sawhney & Ors. Vs. Union of India & Ors. which visualised the necessity of establishment of a permanent/ specialised body to which complaints of non-inclusion or wrong inclusion of groups, classes and sections in the list of Other Backward Classes can be made from time to time. In this regard, Justice Jeevan Reddy opined that, “…Its advice/opinion should ordinarily be binding upon the Government. Where, however, the Government does not agree with its recommendation, it must record its reasons there for.” Section 3(2) of the National Commission of Backward Classes Act, 1993 says the same.

Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination on ground of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Clause (4) of Article 15 provides that “nothing in this article or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes”. Article 16 which provides for equality of opportunity in matters of public employment provides in Clause (4) thereof that “nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State”.

Reference to the provisions of Article 38 and 46 of in Part IV of the Constitution may also be made. Article 38 of the Constitution enjoins a duty on the State to endeavour to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order by, inter alia, eliminating inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities not only amongst individuals but also amongst groups of people either residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations.

Article 46 casts upon the State a duty to promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the population particularly of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and to protect such citizens from social injustice and exploitation. Article 340 of the Constitution envisages the creation of a Commission, inter alia, to investigate the conditions of the socially and educationally backward classes and the difficulties under which such classes labour; and to make recommendations as to the steps that should be taken to remove such difficulties and improve their conditions etc.

Therefore, the object of these provisions is to promote various kinds of advancements to the socially and educationally backward classes of citizens. Providing this advantage to a forward class declared by N.C.B.C. would lead towards a situation where deserving class of citizens would not get these advantages. It will abruptly frustrate the purpose of reservation. This is why, this kind of discretion while granting reservation to a particular class should be struck down in the circumstances and I think that Ram Singh judgment came at the right time. Caste based politics is the biggest hurdle of Indian democratic set-up and judiciary has taken the initiative to remove this evil. Issue of reservation is one of the most debated issues in India and almost every incident relating to reservation highlights in news for public protest, be it diplomatic statement of a leader or a rational Film depicting ground realities and bitter truth. The time has come where we should end this debate by ending unreasonable grounds of reservation. Reservation should strictly be adhered to “socially and educationally backward classes of citizens” up to one generation only. It should be lifted after making them join the main stream of society.

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