Article 15(5): Reservation for SEBCs is valid.

In this landmark judgement, the Court was to adjudicate on the issue of validity of Article 15(5) of the Constitution of India which gave reservation in favour of Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBC) and it upheld the same

TITLE

Ashoka Kumar Thakur Vs. Union Of India

CITATION

[2008] INSC 614

COURT

Supreme Court of India

JUDGES/CORAM

Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice C.K. Thakker

DATE OF JUDGEMENT

10.04.2008

Introduction

Reservation is one of the many tools that are used to preserve and promote the essence of equality, so that disadvantaged groups can be brought to the forefront of civil life. This case deals with the reservation rules that were brought by the Ninety Third Amendment Act 1993. Majorly, the case involves six contentions, each dealing with the validity of the provisions of the said Amendment. The case dissects the relationship between caste and class in the Indian Society and how caste plays an important role in determining the class of an individual.

Facts

The facts of the case are as follows: The Constitution Ninety Third Amendment Act, 2005 and the enactment of Act 5 of 2007 giving reservations to Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Schedule Castes (SCs) and Schedule Tribes (STs) created mixed reactions in the society. The reservation for SC and ST was not opposed in the petition but the reservation of 27% in favor of Other Backward Classes/Socially and Educationally Backward Classes was strongly opposed by various petitioners. The reason for this opposition was Parliament’s introduction of  Article 15(5) in the Ninety Third Constitutional Amendment Act, 2005. The Article enabled the State to make provisions for the advancement of SC, ST and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) of citizens in relation to admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, notwithstanding the provisions of Article 19(1) (g). Section 3 of Act 5 of 2007 provided for reservation of 15% seats for Scheduled Castes, 7% seats for Scheduled Tribes and 27% for Other Backward Classes in Central Educational Institutions.

Also Read  Sankalp Charitable Trust And Anr v. Union Of India And Ors

Issues

The main issues in the case were:

  1. Validity of the Ninety Third Constitutional Amendment Act, 2005: Whether or not Ninety Third Amendment of the Constitution is against the “basic structure” of the Constitution.
  2. Whether or not Articles 15(4) and 15(5) were mutually contradictory and hence Article 15(5) was to be held ultra vires.
  3. Whether or not exclusion of minority educational institutions from Article 15(5) violated Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
  4. Whether or not the Constitutional Amendment followed the procedure prescribed under Article 368 of the Constitution.
  5. Whether or not the Act 5 of 2007 was constitutionally invalid in view of the definition of “Backward Class” and whether the identification of such “Backward Class” based on “caste” was constitutionally valid.

Summary of court decision and judgement

The main contention was over the validity of the Ninety Third Amendment Act as well as whether it is valid to implement reservation policies in Private unaided institutions. Another contention raised questions as to exclusion of minority institutions for the purpose of implementation of reservation policies, which results in violation of Article 14 and the equality principle. The final contention dealt with whether reservations which were given to the Socially and Educationally Backward community are solely on the basis of caste, which  violates  fundamental rights mentioned under Articles 14, 15 and 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution of India.

In response to the contentions, the Court’s decision was as follows: Dealing with the first contention, the Court held that this is a constitutional amendment and an amendment derives its validity from the Constitution itself. Further, with regard to implementation of reservation policies in private schools, the Court left this question unanswered as there was no representative of Private unaided schools.

Dealing with the second contention, the Court held that the exclusion of minority institutions is a constitutional provision and thus it does not violate the equality principle. In response to the final contention, the Court said that the determination of Socially and Educationally Backward Class was not solely on the basis of caste. The Court took a reference from the Mandal Commission report and thus rejected the final contention.

Also Read  Hindustan Steel Ltd. v. State of Orissa

Analysis

The main contention in this case was the validity of Ninety Third Amendment Act and the implementation of reservation rules in Private unaided institutions. The Court only answered upon the validity of the Constitutional Amendment Act. The Court skipped the main contention, which was actually an issue in this case. The judgment mainly gives strong reasons why there is a 27% reservation for SEBCs. The given case also reflects upon the fact that caste system in India is an important factor  for determination of the class of the people.

Conclusion

             This case is significant for understanding why 27% reservation is granted to the Other Backward Classes and the logical reasoning behind it. It minutely explores how the Indian society is divided between class and caste. The judgment highlights the welfare approach of the Court for determining the validity of the reservation provisions brought by the amendment. It successfully advances a philosophical reasoning and promotes supportive arguments from both sides. If we see this case holistically, we find that the judgment tried to give a strong base to the legislative decisions concerning reservation policies that are specifically brought for minimizing social inequality.

                                                                                                                –END OF CASE COMMENT–