To mend the follows of historic injustice, reservation system became part of post-independent India. The fight for reservation that started way back in colonial India is still going on in new forms. Many states have implemented or are mulling over the idea of reservation in private companies for the locals of the area. Many communities are demanding reservation. Earlier Patel community led demonstrations for reservation and now Maratha community from Maharashtra are following the same footsteps. Supreme Court unanimously paused the verdict on the validity of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens (SPBC) act, 2018. Classification of Marathas as socially and educationally backward class was deemed unreasonable because of the political dominance as well as financial well being. Indra Swahney case, 1992 was reiterated.
Historical overview of reservation
Caste based reservation was the brainchild of William hunter and Jyotirao Phule in 1882. It was introduced for the first time in Government of India act of 1909 in the form of communal award. It was part of the divisive policy of Britain. It made provision for a separate electorate for muslims which was extended to other religions and communities in 1919. Poona pact of 1932 gave reservation to certain sections of the society under the Hindu electorate.
In post independent India, originally constitution provided reservation in legislatures for a period of 10 years until 1960 to the scheduled cost and the scheduled tribes (Article 334 constitution of India). It was extended and presently it remains functional.
In 1990 mandal Commission was instituted. Based on its recommendation other backward communities were given reservation. The Mandal Commission reserved 27% in government jobs for OBCs. Indra Swahney case of 1992 upheld the 27% quota for backward classes and established that reservation should not exceed 50% of India’s population. The concept of creamy layer was also introduced. The latest reservation policy change place in 2019 through 103rd amendment act which reserved 10% government jobs an education institutions for economically backward in the unreserved category.
Constitutional status of reservation in India
–Article 14 of constitution forms the basis for By legitimising the concept of equality as Equality before law and equal protection of law.
–Article 15– reservation in educational institutions
–Article 16– reservation in jobs
–Article 330 and 332 -Reserves seat for SCs and STs in parliament and in state legislatures respectively
–Article 243 and 233– Reserves seat for SCs and STs in panchayats and in municipalities respectively
-Special provisions for some states mentioned in Article 371
The new demands for quota put forward by many communities or the reservation for locals in private jobs by state governments like Haryana will have to stand the scrutiny of the judiciary. The experts are of the opinion that reservation is usually a trade off between social equality and merit. In most cases the quota policy is justifiable but its malafide use for vote bank politics is a cause of concern as it threatens India’s efficiency. The government must, at any cost, try to balance the two or else, the entire system of governance will bear the brunt. Now states have started using reservation for better opportunities for the people of the state. If things go south, this can discourage companies from making investment in such states. Fine tuning of the policy with larger goal of nation building should be the bedrock of any policy.