A Critical Examination of the Constitutionality of SC/ST Reservation Extensions in LS and Assemblies

A Constitution Bench chaired by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud will investigate the constitutionality of continually increasing the reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies.

Reservation’s Historical Context

  • The original intent of the Constituent Assembly, led by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, was to provide reservation for SCs/STs for ten years beginning with the adoption of the Indian Constitution in 1950.
  • Amendments to Article 334: Multiple amendments were made to Article 334 of the Constitution, which addresses the term of SC/ST and Anglo-Indian seat reservations. Each time, the reservation’s end date was pushed back by about ten years.
  • The 2019 Amendment: The Constitution (104th Amendment) Act of 2019 removed Anglo-Indian reservation and established 2030 as the date to end SC/ST reservation in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. This prolonged the reservation period from the passage of the Constitution to 80 years.

Examining the Constituent Power of Parliament

  • The Constitution Bench will consider whether Parliament’s constituent power to repeatedly alter Article 334, so extending the SC/ST seat reservation, is constitutionally lawful.
  • The investigation will be limited in scope, focusing primarily on the 104th Constitution Amendment Act of 2019 pertaining to SC/ST populations and will not discuss the elimination of the Anglo-Indian quota.
  • The Effect of Continuous Reservations: The petitioner claims that continued reserve extensions limit electoral choice by barring members of other communities from running in elections. They claim that this violates the fundamental right to equality guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution.
  • Violation of Fundamental Right: According to the petition, these recurring extensions violate the fundamental structure of the Constitution by depriving other communities the opportunity to compete for reserved seats, so impairing their right to equal representation in government.

The Government’s Point of View

  • Union of India’s Position: The Union of India, represented by the Attorney General and Solicitor General, maintains that the 104th Constitution Amendment Act is constitutionally lawful.

What comes next?

  • The hearing has been scheduled by the Constitution Bench.
  • This critical assessment of SC/ST reservation extensions raises serious concerns regarding Indian democracy’s basic underpinnings and the right to equality.
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