The petition argues that the policy of reservation for economically weaker sections of society violates the basic structure of the Constitution.

Cannot base reservation on economic status DMK moves HC against upper caste quota
news Reservation Friday, January 18, 2019 - 14:21

Days after the Indian Parliament cleared the constitutional amendment providing ten per cent reservation to ‘economically weaker’ upper castes, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has approached the Madras High Court, seeking to nullify the constitutional amendment.

The DMK’s Rajya Sabha MP and the party’s Organising Secretary RS Bharathi petitioned the court on Friday, explaining that the rationale behind the reservation policy that was first introduced in 1951 was social justice. The petition argues that the policy of reservation for economically weaker sections of society violates the basic structure of the Constitution.

“The concept of reservation, being an exception to the equality clause, is only justified when it is used for the purpose of upliftment of communities which have suffered discrimination and oppression like the OBC, SCs and STs. Economic criteria alone cannot be the basis of reservation since reservation is not a poverty alleviation scheme,” states the DMK’s petition, citing several past verdicts of the apex court wherein it had held that economic status cannot be the sole criterion for reservation.

With regard to the case of Tamil Nadu which has a policy of 69 per cent reservation for backward classes, Dalits and Adivasis, the petition said that the new amendment permits further reservation up to a total of 79 per cent in the state.

Detailing the first Indian Parliament's discussion on whether the positive discrimination was in contravention of the principle of equality, the petition states, "During one such debate, a question was posed by Mr TT Krishnamachari as to whether the term backward class referred to in Article 16 (4) was based on economic status or caste. To this, the reply of Dr BR Ambedkar reflects the intention of the drafters. He said that “as I said, the Drafting Committee had to produce a formula which would reconcile these three points of view, firstly, that there shall be equality of opportunity, secondly that there shall be reservations in favour of certain communities which have not so far had a `proper look-in' so to say into the administration.” Hence, it is clear that the concept of reservation itself is not with reference to the economic status of a person but rather with reference to the community to which he belongs, with an idea to integrate that community into the mainstream system of education and employment."

Painting a "picture of the heinous nature of caste discrimination in India", the petition goes on to state, "It is an incomparable phenomenon, which denied basic human dignity to a vast section of Indians for several centuries. Naturally, as a result, over the centuries, people belonging to these ‘lower castes’ were segregated from the academic circles, were not permitted to be employed where ‘higher’ castes worked and as a result, their entire families rotted in poverty and exclusion, while the ‘upper’ castes educated and enriched themselves. The effect of this systemic discrimination was not just economic. It was social and psychological as well."

Stating that the Bill itself was 'foisted' on the Lok Sabha where it was not part of the agenda, the DMK's petition says, "the copies of the Bill were not even furnished to the Hon’ble Members sufficiently in advance so as to enable the Hon’ble Members to go through it, have a meaningful deliberation and consult with their constituents."

The petition, however, points out that the economic criterion has been used as a filter to exclude the ‘creamy layer’ i.e. persons belong to the backward classes but who are economically advanced. The petition also adds that since the impugned amendments do not define the term 'economically weaker sections', it would lead to different states adopting different standards.