On April 9 the Government must submit to the Supreme Court (SC) the Cabinet files related to its decision to grant reservation to the Jat community in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category to explain the rationale behind the decision. The SC order was in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by the OBC Reservation Raksha Samiti alleging that the Government did this to a dominant caste community simply to get votes. The SC bench said: “It is a serious matter. We want to peruse the files to see if the Government has applied its mind.”
Indeed it is a serious matter. The OBC Raksha Samiti is right to question whether the Jats deserve reservation. But OBC outfit also needs to question whether the rest of the OBC castes deserve reservation. The SC is right to consider whether the Government has applied its mind. But the honourable Judges also need to dispassionately consider whether the Court has over the years adequately applied its own mind to the issue of caste based reservations.
Granting reservation quotas on the basis of caste violates the provisions of the Constitution.
Clause 2 of Article 16 of the Constitution explicitly debars discrimination in government employment on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth and residence. However, Clause 4 of Article 16 of the Constitution empowers the state to grant such preference to any backward class it considers deserving. By adding other criteria to caste and giving preponderant weight to caste the government converted caste into backward class. The Supreme Court did not strike this down. Ironically the same Articles of the Constitution are invoked by the BJP to oppose reservation for religious minorities. The fact that caste and religion are on the same footing according to the Constitution is conveniently overlooked. Not surprisingly, the Rashtriya Janata Dal in its just released manifesto has promised reservation quotas to religious minorities.
It is embarrassing to reiterate the same arguments in these columns. But how long should fraudulent affirmative action by pandering to caste identities be allowed to continue and escalate? The SC seemed to overlook implications of Clauses (2) and (4) of Article 16 of the Constitution to allow caste based reservation. But the Andhra High Court disallowed reservation to religious communities on the basis of the same Article although clearly by the Article caste and religion are on the same footing. Meanwhile responding to demands affluent creamy layers of backward castes have been marked to disallow reservation. At the same time a poor segment among forward castes has been marked for reservation. The affluent Jain community among others has also been given a reservation quota. After the Jats, the Gujjars are also agitating for quotas under the Scheduled Tribes category.
No party dare announce that affirmative action should be through quotas granted only on the basis of economic considerations. Thereby politicians would lose their vote banks. No party dare announce compulsory primary education to advance the poor. Politicians seem to have a vested interest in perpetuating poverty in order to consolidate their vote banks. No court has pointed out the Constitutional discrepancy between the SC allowing caste reservation and the Andhra High Court disallowing reservation for religion.
Should not the honourable Supreme Court seriously address this issue to restore consistency and reason in the matter of granting job quotas in government?