This article is written by Shikha Pokhriyal, from Delhi Metropolitan Education, GGSIPU, school of law. This article deals with the reservation of constituencies.
Reservation of constituencies is done for the people belonging to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, or Other Backward Classes. We have read about the inequalities and injustice that these categories had to go through in history. The people belonging to the weaker sections of the society always fought for rights that were very basic and common and should be made available to every individual living in this country.
The Government of India introduced several laws in favor of the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes so that they can stand with the people belonging to the higher class without any hesitation and discrimination. But in recent years, many petitions were filed, questioning the reservation in schools, colleges, jobs, or in the election for these classes. This article deals with the case which questioned the reservation of specific constituencies located in Tamil Nadu and depriving the people belonging to the general category of their basic right to stand in an election.
Reservation in India: A brief outline
Reserved constituencies are the ones where Scheduled Castes (SC), the Scheduled Tribes (ST), and Other Backward Classes (OBC) are selected as candidates to contest in the elections of Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha. In this reserved constituency, all the voters residing are considered eligible voters.
Reservation in India is almost everywhere for the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribes as they are considered weaker sections of society. These three categories Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes are given reservations as in history they faced a massive amount of discrimination and inequality based on belonging to weaker sections of the society.
These weaker sections of the society are given protection in the form of reserving certain rights for their welfare and growth. By reserving certain rights like, to get admission in schools and colleges, a minimum score is kept for the children’s belonging to these categories of the society which is always lower than the score for the general category, or they are often given preferences in the government jobs and also in the hospitals some guidelines are there so that they can have access to medical facilities without any hesitation.
Now, there is one common question that always comes to our mind somehow, the question is why? Why these sections like Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes are given privileges like these, be it in the school or college or while applying for government jobs. This question thus bothers a lot of people who are in the general category and competing with the weaker sections of the society for various things whether it be college or a government job.
Need for reservation
- As we know, that these sections Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes faced a lot of injustice in earlier times, and they were even denied basic fundamental rights like studying and practicing any profession they like or even going to the public places where rest of the upper caste people used to go like temples. To curb all these inequalities, many Articles of Indian Constitution, provides these basic rights to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes or Other Backward Classes and even give the power to states make special laws for in favor of them.
- Mandal Commission was established in the year 1990 by VP Singh. This committee was set up to provide reserved twenty-seven percent seats in jobs under Central Government services and public units for the people belonging to other backward classes. This was done so that these sections of the society were not denied jobs just on the fact that they were born in the wrong caste.
- Also in 2019, the 103rd Amendment of providing 10% reservation was formulated which stated that ten percent reservation should be given to the people belonging to “economically backward” who are in the unreserved category in government jobs and educational institutions.
- In the case of Indra Sawhney Etc. Etc v. Union Of India And Others, Article 16(4) was analyzed. The court in this case laid down the concept of creamy layer, in which the Other Backward Classes should be excluded from this layer. Also the court said, more than fifty percent of reservation is not allowed and there will be no reservation done while promoting a candidate.
Reserved constituencies were made while looking at the problems faced by these suppressed backward classes. The candidates standing from these classes like Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribes often do not have enough resources to stand in elections with the other upper-class candidates so to help them gather the resources and contacts, reserved constituencies are formed, therefore to prevent the upper-class people from suppressing the voices of these weaker sections and encouraging the candidates of these weaker sections of the society, so that they can work for their community and thus promoting equality.
An overview of the case of M Chandramohan v. the Secretary, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs
Facts of the case
In the case of M.Chandrmohan v. the Secretary, a writ of mandamus was filed before the court by the petitioner asking to convert a reserved constituency in Tamil Nadu known as “Vasudevanallur Legislative Assembly constituency” into the general constituency. So that all the categories of people whether being the scheduled caste, Scheduled Tribes, or general can stand up as candidates to contest elections in this reserved area. This constituency has been reserved for the past forty-four years, since 1976. The petitioner in his application stated that the people belonging to the general category are deprived of the basic amenities.
The contention of parties to the case
The learned counsel of the petitioner said that the Indian Constitution in the Article 330 and Article 332 gave the authority to reserve constituencies for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. This was done so that all categories of people are treated equally and no one should be discriminated against based on caste. But this “Vasudevanallur Legislative Assembly Constituency” has been reserved for more than a period of ten years and because of this other people who do not belong to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribes are being deprived of the basic rights and also the people who want to stand in an election cannot run as a candidate because of the constituency is reserved.
Article 330 : “Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People” states that seats shall be reserved for the people belonging to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, and for the scheduled tribes from the area of Assam. This Article emphasized the number of people who should be elected in the Lok Sabha as candidates from these communities.
Article 332 : “Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States.” This Article emphasized the fact that seats shall be reserved for the candidates belonging to the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, or the scheduled tribes from the districts of Assam. The proportion of candidates who should be selected out of these communities is stated in this Article.
The seats which should be reserved for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes are determined by the population of the people belonging to these categories residing in that particular area according to the Delimitation Act, 2002 (Section 9).
The objections regarding any clause of the Delimitation Act can be filed within a limited period prescribed and if that period passes, then no objections shall be entertained by the court under Section 10. Therefore, if the orders are made in Section 8 of the Delimitation Act and Section 9 of the Delimitation Act and once it was published under Section 10, they are considered as law under Article 327 and cannot be further challenged this was held in the case of Meghraj Kothari v. Delimitation Commission & Ors.
Findings of the court
The reserved constituencies for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes shall remain reserved, till the next census which will be done after the year 2026 so the delimitation exercise shall be done after the census is done.
The area of Vasudevanallur (SC) Assembly Constituency, consists of the highest percentage (26.20) of scheduled caste. Therefore, the writ petition of mandamus by the petitioner urging to convert Vasudevanallur reserved constituencies into general constituency is not sustainable and maintainable, thus, the petition is rejected. The petitioner raised a point that the seats are reserved on a rotational basis and this court said there is no such provision made under the Constitution of India and Delimitation Act, 2002 to reserve seats on a rotational basis.
The court rejected the petition by observing if in a specific area the population of Scheduled Caste is higher in number than the other general category, the opportunity to stand in the elections of Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha is always given to the candidate belonging to Scheduled Caste. So that these candidates can help to get their area better and also economically stronger. Though the candidates or the political leaders belonging to the other classes also promise to work for the people belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribes but after they win the election these promises remain promises.
This petition relating to the reservation was filed in respect of Tamil Nadu which was supposed to be held on 6th April 2021. Keeping this in mind, the court also observed the matters of distributing free gifts to the voters which were argued in the case of S. Subramaniam Balaji v. State of Tamil Nadu and Others. In this case, the court said they can not consider distributing all these gifts or promises they were making to win an election, as corrupt practices but they did ask the election commission of India to frame some guidelines regarding the contents of the election manifesto.
The guidelines named handbook for candidates were issued by the election commission of India in 2014.
The court further said that the distribution of freebies violates the purity of the election process. Thus they should be considered as corrupt practices. In this judgment, the court said, the election manifesto was not popular earlier but now as the parties compete by distributing freebies in various kinds in return for votes. Development or not, but it is making people lazy.
In the above case, the court rejected the petitioner’s writ of mandamus stating that it would be unfair to remove the Vasudevanallur Assembly Constituency in Tamil Nadu from the reserved category as the majority of the population there is of Scheduled Caste. To maintain the balance in that area only a Scheduled Caste candidate can be considered.
Reservation is done for the betterment of society to uplift the weaker sections of society. The people belonging to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, or Other Backward Classes were considered untouchables in the past and a lot of injustice was done to them. So the constitution of India introduced the abolition of untouchability.
To promote equality and fair chances, reservations were introduced so that the people belonging to the Backward Classes can also move forward and contribute to the economy and they should not be considered less than anyone just because they are born into a family which the society thinks is not good.
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