November 24, 2023

India’s historical and socioeconomic background, which specifically addresses issues of discrimination and social injustice, is where reservations first emerged.

Reservations were partially implemented by the British colonial authority at the beginning of the twentieth century, but the Indian Constitution did not officially recognize them until 1947 when the country gained its independence. SCs and STs are granted preference in government employment and educational institutions under the Indian Constitution.

Bihar Reservation Bill: The Facts

The Bihar Reservation policy to raise the state’s quota for economically disadvantaged groups, backward classes, and extremely backward classes to 75% was agreed by the government headed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the Bihar Assembly meeting. Following the Bihar Assembly’s overwhelming approval of the Reservation Amendment Bill, caste quotas went above the Supreme Court’s limit.

Reservation Quota Beyond the Limit of the Supreme Court: The Issue

  • The Bill will raise the reservation percentage in Bihar to 75%, much over the 50% ceiling established by the Supreme Court, when combined with the 10% Economically Disadvantaged Class quota.
  • The Assembly unanimously approved the Bihar Reservation Policy that would have increased reservations for caste in government employment and educational institutions. These bills were created using data from a recent caste census that the State administration had done.

Bihar Reservation Bill: Its Approval

  • Following the presentation of the caste survey report to the Bihar Legislature, the Cabinet, headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, approved a proposal to increase the reservation in Bihar category wise for economically disadvantaged groups, backward classes, and extremely backward classes to 75%.
  • The quotas for the Backward Class (BC) will increase from 12% to 18%,
  • The quotas for Scheduled Caste (SC) from 16% to 20%,
  • The quotas of Scheduled Tribe (ST) from 1% to 2%, and
  • The quotas for Extremely Backward Class (EBC) from the current 18% to 25%.
  • There is no longer a 3% reservation for BC women.
  • The 10% EWS quota that has been set aside for the underprivileged in the general category has not altered. 25% of the quota will remain unreserved, effectively bringing the total quota limit to 75%.
  • The design for the reservation of quota has been established in accordance with the reservation of these castes’ government jobs.

The Landmark Ruling: Indra Shawney v UOI

  • In Indian constitutional law, the Indra Sawhney case is a landmark case. In 1992, a nine-judge panel of the Indian Supreme Court rendered a decision on it.
  • The petitioners claimed that Article 14 of the Indian Constitution’s i.e., fundamental right to equality was breached by the OBC reservation and that it was unconstitutional.

The following guidelines were established by the Indra Sawhney case:

  • According to Article 16(4) of the Indian Constitution, reservations for the underprivileged are a legitimate constitutional provision.
  • For every category of backward classes, the overall reserve should not be more than 50%.
  • To stop the wealthy members of the backward classes from cornering reservation benefits, the exclusion of the creamy layer needs to be implemented.

Bihar Reservation Amendment Bill: Challenges Faced by the Supreme Court

  • The constitutionality of reserve bills is a common point of controversy. If these laws prejudice specific groups within society, those against them argue that they go against the fundamental equality guaranteed by the Constitution.
  • In the case of Indra Sawhney v UOI decision, the Indian Supreme Court established a 50% reservation cap. Legal challenges may arise from any kind of reservation policy that goes above this threshold, unless there are particular circumstances, like the inclusion of a provision under the virtue of Article 15(5) of the Indian Constitution for reservations in educational institutions.
  • The idea of the “creamy layer” refers to denying the advantages of reservation to certain restricted groups of people who have attained a specific level of advancement in society. Establishing and carrying out the creamy layer standards could cause difficulties.
  • Reservation policies frequently coincide with the idea of eliminating social and educational disparities. Establishing the standards for defining categories of backwardness and if the classification has been based on fair and impartial grounds could be difficult.

The Constitution does not specify a fifty percent reservation cap. In Indra Sawhney’s decision, the Supreme Court refrained from offering a justification or explanation for the methodology employed to determine the 50% ceiling.

Consequently, a number of states have vigorously opposed the 50% reservation cap after the Bihar reservation news, arguing that it was not firmly established or permanently fixed and that it was instead a fictitious creation of the judiciary that needs to be reviewed in light of social demography.

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