Constitutional validity of Extending Reservation in LS, Assemblies 

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    Syllabus: GS2/ Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions & Bodies for Protection & Betterment of these Sections

    In News

    • The Supreme Court recently posted for hearing the pleas challenging the constitutional validity of extending reservation to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in Lok Sabha and the state assemblies beyond the original 10-year period contemplated in the Constitution.

    More About the News

    • The apex court will examine the validity of the 104th Constitutional Amendment Act, which extended quota to SCs and STs in Lok Sabha and state assemblies by another 10 years.
    • The umbrella issue would be whether the constitutional amendments extending periods of reservation violated the basic structure of the Constitution.
    • The reservations for Anglo Indians may come to an end after the expiration of 70 years from the commencement of the Constitution.

    About the Caste-Based Reservation System 

    • Origin in India:
      • The caste-based reservation system was first proposed by William Hunter and Jyotirao Phule in 1882. 
      • In 1933, British Prime Minister, Ramsay Macdonald, delivered the ‘Communal Award,’ which established the reservation system that persists today. 
      • Separate electorates were established for Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans, and Dalits in the award.
    • Reservation of seats in the parliament:
      • The Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) have seats reserved in the Indian Parliament, state assemblies, and urban and rural-level organisations. 
      • Without a distinct electorate, all voters in a constituency elect these reserved members. 
      • Members of the SC and ST community are not prohibited from running for a general (non-reserved) seat. 
    • Rationale behind the reservation system in India:
    • Reservation is one of the techniques used to combat social oppression and discrimination against specific groups who have been repressed in the past. 
    • Reservation, also known as affirmative action, aids in the upliftment of underprivileged groups.
    • To make amends for the historical injustices suffered by the country’s lower castes and to level the playing field for the underprivileged, who are unable to compete with those who have had access to wealth and means for centuries.
    • To ensure that meritocracy is based on equality, all people must be raised to the same level before being judged on merit.

    Issue:

    • Original provision for reservation: Originally, the Constituent Assembly under Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had meant reservation for SCs/STs only for a period of 10 years from the commencement of the Indian Constitution in 1950.
    • Extension of reservations: Article 334 of the Constitution, which dealt with the time period to cease reserving seats for SCs/ STs and Anglo-Indians, was amended multiple times over the decades.
      • every time, the deadline to stop the reservation was extended by 10 years or so.
      • Starting with the Constitution (8th Amendment) Act in 1969 and all the way up to the Constitution (104th Amendment) Act in 2019, the deadline was stretched over and over again.
    • 104th Amendment Act: The 2019 Act terminated the reservation for the Anglo-Indian community and fixed 2030 as the deadline to end the reservation for SCs/STs in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies.
      • By 2030, the SC/ST communities would have enjoyed reservation for 80 years since the adoption of the Constitution.

    Criticisms Over Extensions of Reservation

    • Limited electorate: The relentless and repeated extensions of reservation granted to certain communities have deprived the electorate of a choice in candidates and rendered them unable to even freely cast their votes.
    • Violation of fundamental Rights: These periodic extensions of reservation amounted to a violation of the fundamental right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution. 
    • Violation of the basic structure: The petition said the extensions violated the basic structure of the Constitution as other communities were excluded from contesting in these reserved seats. The right to equality included the right to equal representation in government.
    Article 330
    – According to Article 330 of the Constitution of India and the Representation of the People Act of 1951, seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha are allocated based on the proportion of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the state based on the state’s population.
    Article 331
    – Article 331 of the Constitution allows for the nomination of two Anglo-Indians to the Lok Sabha. 
    Article 334
    – Article 334 of the Constitution mentions the special provision of reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and the special representation of the Anglo-Indian community by nomination in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies to cease after a certain period.

    Source: TH