Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India

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.
CITATION[2008] INSC 614
COURTSupreme Court of India
JUDGES/CORAMJustice Arijit Pasayat and Justice C.K. Thakker
DATE OF JUDGEMENT10.04.2008

Introduction

Reservation is one of the many tools that are used to preserve and promote the essence of equality, so that disadvantage groups can be brought to the forefront of civil life. This case deals with the reservation rules, which were brought through the Ninety Third Amendment Act 1993. The entire case deals with the major six contentions, which were raised against the Constitutional Amendment and its validity. Most importantly, the judgment of this case sees the relationship between the caste and class of 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, the reservation of 27% in favour of Other Backward Classes/Socially and Educationally Backward Classes was strongly opposed by various petitioners in these cases. The reason for this opposition was that the Parliament introduced Article 15(5) by the Ninety Third Constitutional Amendment Act, 2005 to enable the State to make such provision for the advancement of SC, ST and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) of citizens in relation to a specific subject, namely, 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.

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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) was violative of 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 definition of Backward Class” and whether the identification of such “Backward Class” based on “caste” was constitutionally valid.

Summary of court decision and judgement

In this case we see that 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. The contention was also raised concerning the exclusion of minority institutions for the purpose of implementation of reservation policies, which results in violation of Article 14, the equality principle. The final contention which was made in this case was that the reservations which were given to the socially and educationally backward community is solely on the basis of caste, which was the violation of fundamental rights mentioned under Articles 14, 15 and 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution of India.

In response to the contentions, court decision was as follows: in response to the first contention Court said that this is a constitutional amendment and these amendments derive its validity from the constitutional itself and in regard to implementation of reservation policies in private schools court left this question unanswered as there was no representative of Private unaided schools.

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

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Analysis

The main contention, in this case, was the validity of the Ninety-Third Amendment Act, and the implementation of reservation rule in private unaided institutions. Court only answered the validity of the Constitutional amendment act. The Court skipped the main contention which was actually an issue in this case. The judgment of this case mainly gives the strong reasons why there is 27% reservation for SEBCs. Another important viewpoint that can be appreciated in this case is the caste system in India is an important factor to consider for the determination of the class of the people.

Conclusion

This case is highly significant for the understanding of why 27% of reservation is granted to the Other Backward classes and what is the logical reasoning behind this? The case minutely explores how Indian society is divided between class and caste. The philosophical reasoning, the supportive arguments, a welfare approach can be seen in this case judgment for determining the validity of reservation provisions brought through amendment. If we see this case holistically then we find that the judgment tried to give a strong base to the decisions of legislation for the reservation policies which is actually brought for the purpose of minimizing the social inequality.