The Indian constitution itself provides reservation for the upliftment of
various groups of people. Earlier, the reservations were provided on the basis
of castes but on January 14, 2019, Indian government took a revolutionary step
towards the development of economically weaker people by giving them 10% quota
in government jobs and education.
On January 8, 2019, the NDA- led government introduced the constitution bill
(one hundred and twenty fourth amendment) in the lower house of the parliament.
The aim of this bill was to provide reservation to the economically weaker
section of the society in public employment and education. On January 9, 2019,
the lower house passed the bill with 323 members assenting the bill out of 326
members present and voting, and ultimately was passed in the upper house too
with just 7 members voting against the bill and without any recommendations.
Later, the bill was sent to the president of India for his assent, on January
12, 2019, president Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the bill. And hence, the
constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019 came into force on January 14, 2019
providing reservations to the economically weaker section of the society.
Social and economic differences have always been a barrier in the development of
the country. To overcome theses, the steps and efforts taken by the governments
and Courts have been incredible. The government knows that a country cannot
develop fully without the development of the citizens and if all the citizens
are treated equally, this development of citizens cannot take place. The
government and the courts of India has time to time taken steps for the social
equality and this time, with this Amendment, the government tried to overcome
economic inequality and injustice.
The constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019, Amended the provisions of Article
15 and 16 of Indian constitution. An additional clause 6 is added to both of
these Articles. The amendment to the article 15 of the Indian constitution
provides reservation to economically weaker sections in case of educational
institutions (public as well as private, excluding minority educational
institutions). On the other hand, amendment to Article 16 of Indian constitution
provides reservation in public employment to economically weaker section of the
This Act violates the 50% limit imposed by the nine judge bench in the case of
Indra Sawhney. Now, the reservation has reached up to 60% and therefore, this
Act was criticised by many people. The interpretation of “economically weaker
section” is left to the states and will be decided by them from time to time on
the basis of “family income”
and “other indicators of economic
. Even here, the term “other indicators of economic
isn’t defined clearly.
Who All Comes Under Economically Backward Sections?
The central government of India had specified a certain criteria to identify
economically backward criteria. However the states are given the privilege to
decide the income criterion of the beneficiaries.
The criteria decided by the central government to identify the economically
backward section is for the general category people whose:
- Family income is below 8 lakhs per annum will be covered under this
- Agricultural land owned by the family is less than 5 acres.
- Residential flat owned by the family is less than 1000sq. Ft
- Residential plot owned by the family is less than 100 sq. Yards.
Even though, the law makers might have the interest of people in their minds
while introducing this amendment, this amendment has some problems. The first
and the foremost problem with this amendment is that the criteria set by the
central government for identification of economically weaker section covers
around 80% of the Indian population.
That means, 80% of the Indian population is eligible for this 10% quota. Another
major problem with this amendment is that it violates the rule of 50%
reservations. Now, the total reservations have reached to 60% and this means
that the people selected on the basis of merits would just be 40%.
This amendment is also challenged by an organisation named youth for equality
and several others, they argued that this amendment violates basic structure of
the constitution Indian laid by ‘keshvananda bharti’ case by exceeding the
capping of fifty percent limit set by the honourable supreme court of India.
What Is The Basic Structure Doctrine?
The Indian constitution itself has provided the right to central legislature and
state legislature to make laws within their jurisdiction. Amendments in Indian
constitution are also possible under article 368, but these amendments can only
be made by the parliament and this right isn’t absolute. To preserve the
original ideals and philosophy behind the Indian constitution, the Supreme Court
laid down the basic structure doctrine.
This word ‘basic structure’ isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Indian constitution
and its concept developed slowly and gradually. In the case of Shankari Prasad
vs. Union of India and sajjan singh vs State of Rajasthan, the supreme court of
India held that the parliament has the power to make amend any part of Indian
constitution under Article 368. Later, in the case of golaknath vs state of
Punjab, the Supreme Court overruled the earlier decisions and held that the
parliament does not have the power to amend part III of the Indian constitution.
According to this judgement, Article 368 of the Indian constitution only lays
the procedure to amend the constitution and does not give absolute power to
amend any provisions of Indian constitution. Later on, in the case of
keshvananda bharti v/s state of kerala
, the 24th constitution Amendment Act
This Act had given absolute power to the Parliament to make amendments in the
provisions of Indian constitution and also made it obligatory for the president
of India to give his assent to all the constitution Amendment Bills bought to
him. The Supreme Court, in this case the Supreme Court held that the parliament
has the power to amend the constitution but the basic structure of the
constitution should be maintained in doing so. But here, the Supreme Court did
not clarify the meaning of basic structure.
In the case of economic reservations, many have argued that it violates the
basic structure doctrine.
At the time of drafting the constitution, the framers very well knew about the
caste based discrimination in the society. At that time, there was a large
section of under privileged people who had to face discrimination on the basis
of caste and they’ve been experiencing this for ages. To overcome all these ill
practices and to promote equality among the Indian society, the framers of the
Indian constitution inserted the provisions of reservations. It was done to
uplift the backward class people and give them a social standing.
The makers tried to abolish discrimination based on caste system through these
provisions. But, now the times are changing and with the changing time, the
mentality of people is also changing. The so called upper caste has started
accepting the backward class. The backward class now have their own social
standing and they are given equal rights.
Therefore, the sole criterion of caste
based reservation cannot be adopted in modern India. The caste based
reservations have helped a lot in changing the condition of Indian society but
with changing times, the criterion for reservations should also be changed.
These reservations should be now on the basis of economic condition of a person.
The economic equality among people will also help in achieving social equality.
The weapon of reservations is a very helpful one. It should be used in the best
possible way and should be used carefully. Changes are a necessity of life and
hence, laws and provisions should also be changed with the changing time. The
laws and provisions should be made according to the need of current society
Written By: Muskan Saxena
(3rd year BBA LLB, JECRC University, Jaipur)