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Constitution of India- Reservation for the (un)privileged

While reading through the pages of four separate judgments rendered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, upholding the constitutional validity of the 103rd Amendment to the Constitution of India enabling the 10% reservation to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of the Society in education and public employment, without any reason, the strong and muscular figure of the local leader and heartthrob of the oppressed, Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker, as depicted by Film Director Mr Vinayan, rushed to my mind. Mr Panicker, a merchant from Central Kerala, belonged to a socially backward community and had strong financial muscles to fight against the ills and odds of the social norms of those times when casteism was frantically prevalent in the social veins of Kerala. Though Mr Panicker was not socially acceptable to the creamy layers of society, the upper class, including the Maharaja of Travancore, had not dared to challenge his might and will and had not confronted him on many occasions, even though he was politically incorrect on his deeds. The said compelled acceptance was not because of his muscle power but because of the financial stature he possessed through the business ventures he adorned. However, those, who belonged to the same community, but were financially weaker, became socially and educationally backwards and got crushed under the iron boots of the power mongers. From the pages of history, it is evident that financially weaker sections of society gradually became socially and educationally backwards, and then it became a norm that the socially and educationally backward classes were destined to be financially more vulnerable and vice versa. It became a vicious cycle, mixed up like a chicken and egg story.

When the wheel of the time had rolled on the axle of the Constitution, the socially and educationally backward classes had slowly started coming out from the ashes of distortion and became economically and financially privileged, while a section of the financially stable upper class started drifting to the sidelines of the society, got marginalised and became socially and educationally underprivileged. Slowly and gradually, the poor among the upper classes had ironically become socially and educationally backwards and got more impoverished and disadvantaged. The symphony of destiny had the turned sides, and the weaker became stronger and erstwhile strongholds turned to be paler and more fragile. This compelled the Governments to look into the finer aspects of the same and handhold the said economically weaker section to mainstream society through the reservation mechanism as envisaged in the 103rd Amendment. Though there are poorer people among the socially and educationally backward classes, and more time is needed to revive them from the hard-core oppression they have faced for centuries, the economically weaker sections of the upper class also need solace in the form of reservation.

The said Amendment, which had excluded the SC/ST/OBC from the definition of Economically weaker Sections for 10% reservation, had raised many eyebrows and was termed as anti- backward class legislation and resulted in a spree of writ petitions before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, in which the principal issues were raised concerning the violation of the basic structure of the Constitution, violation of the equality code and breaching of the ceiling limit of fifty per cent reservation.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India rightly upheld the validity of the 103rd Amendment with a 3:2 majority in favour of the Amendment. The essence of the judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India is that there is a logic in the exclusion of the backward classes mentioned in Articles 15(4), 15(5) and 16(4) from the ambit of the Economic Weaker Section, as they are presently enjoying the reservation as ‘Socially and educationally backwards’ and hence the 103rdConstitutional Amendment is held as valid. The Court observed that the 103rd Constitution Amendment could not be said to breach the basic structure of the Constitution by permitting the State to make special provisions, including reservation, based on economic criteria and cannot be said to breach the basic structure of the Constitution in excluding the SEBCs/OBCs/SCs/STs from the scope of EWS reservation.

The reservation for socially and educationally backward classes was extended by Article 16 of the Constitution based on the hard facts and sheer realities to reincarnate the said class of people from the ashes created by the discriminatory systems. But the reservations extended to the socially and backward classes in public employment should not be deemed as permanent and perpetual ones, and they should give way to the underprivileged in the society, which became economically backward due to the passage of time. In that aspect, the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India is laudable and commendable as it strives to uphold the principles of equality among various sections of society purely based on the economic status of the citizens.

Though the judgment is a laudable one, the practical aspects of adequately identifying the eligible candidates based on the economic criteria is a worrisome factor, as we have many times witnessed large ques in front of Government Offices to avail the privileges extended exclusively to the families/households which are Below Poverty Line (BPL), while the roads in front of the said offices are getting chocked due to high-end cars which are parked by the said beneficiaries and the ringing bells of iPhones in their deep pockets are continuously making the sound pollution. Therefore, I hope the Economically Weaker Sections shall not remain as such, and they shall also get a space in the long queues to get the privileges the Amendment offers them.

While thinking about the impact of the constitutional Amendment on the commoner and trying to relate the same with the story of Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker to write an article, a loud and furious honking pulled me out of my thoughts, and a speeding State car, a Black Kia Carnival with red colour number plate, had passed me through the busy roads of Trivandrum and carelessly but authoritatively tried to cross the junction, and the police officer who was in charge of the signalled intersection had permitted the said car, with a grand salute, to pass it through the red signals, while others, the politically incorrect and underprivileged ordinary citizens, were waiting for the green signal to shift their gears. I, with a grim, realised that the social or economic or educational backwardness is not the real problem of the society, but the unprecedently politicised social norms and the political slavery are the real culprits of the current plight of Independent India. Now, let us pray to our great politicians to amend the Constitution of India to save us from political slavery and liberate us from the life of the underprivileged.


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