Reservation didn’t come easy

The various Acts on Reservation for Backward Classes had to overcome a plethora of political and legal challenges

By Author BS Ramulu   |   Published: 4th Apr 2019   12:12 am Updated: 3rd Apr 2019   8:54 pm

The BC Commissions were constituted on a statutory basis in 1993, primarily tasked to make a list of Backward Classes (BCs) at the Central and State levels. Since then, these Commissions have been working for the benefit of the BCs in many ways. Based on the 102nd Constitutional Amendment Act, the BC Commissions became constitutional bodies last year.

The issue of reservations for BCs started during the tenure of Morarji Desai and was championed by BP Mandal. VP Singh enabled it and the Supreme Court ensured that it stayed the course. The Supreme Court has also empowered the BC Commissions to make the comprehensive list of BCs and take steps to ensure that the BCs avail the reservations within the limit of 50%.

Key Articles

Since 1990, I have been doing field work to collect information about various social issues. We hardly find any movements on the implementation of Article 21 (Right to Education), which is very much required to eradicate all social evils in any society.

Similarly, Article 340 is an important article, which deals with the appointment of a Commission to study the conditions of the socially and educationally backward BCs. In accordance with it, the Kakasaheb Kalelkar Commission was constituted in 1953 to study the conditions of the BCs when Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister. Its recommendations, submitted in 1955, were “too vague and wide to be of much practical value.” Hence, the report was set aside. The issue of reservations were to be discussed in the light of the 1932 Poona Pact, but this was not done.

Second Coming

After about 25 years, the Second BC Commission was constituted under the chairmanship of BP Mandal, who submitted his report in 1980. After being kept in abeyance for about 10 years, VP Singh as Prime Minister tried to provide reservations to BCs based on its recommendations.
However, it led to much national unrest with pro-and-anti-protests breaking out across the country. There were appeals in courts, the most notable being the Indra Sawhney case after which the Supreme Court fixed a 50% ceiling on reservations.

As our Constitution has not defined what constitutes backwardness, it has become difficult to know who the BCs are and how to assess backwardness in terms of social, education and economic sphere. The Supreme Court, after its judgement in the Indra Sawhney case, forwarded certain suggestions and recommendations.

In accordance with them, the Government of India constituted the National Backward Commission at the national level and the State Backward Class Commission at the State level in 1993 through an Act to this effect. The Act conferred statutory status on these Commissions.

In Undivided Andhra Pradesh

In accordance with the GO Ms No. 870 Education Dt. April 12, 1968, the Government of Andhra Pradesh constituted the ‘Backward Classes Commission.’ This Commission, headed by Justice Manohar Prasad, was directed to identify the list of socially and educationally backward BCs and make recommendations for their admission in educational institutions and opportunities in public employment.

As Justice Manohar Prasad resigned after a few days, the government appointed KN Anantha Raman, a retired IAS officer, as Chairman of the Commission on 29th October 1969 and also Ramulu in November, 1969, as Member Secretary. So, their report is known as ‘Ananta Raman Commission’ report.

The Commission was directed to forward its recommendations with regard to educationally and economically backward classes and enlist them. It was also directed to recommend steps on reservations and scholarships for the BCs and make suggestions to steps achieve it.

Revising the List

In order to revise the list of BCs, the government of Andhra Pradesh appointed NK Muralidhar Rao Commission. The Commission was also directed to consider socially and educationally BCs of the minority community. So, the Commission, having considered all this, recommended enhancement of reservations from 25% to 44%.

The Commission enhanced the list of the castes of Backward Classes from 93 to 102 and made some classifications. It recommended inclusion of butchers and Qureshis in the list of backward communities. The Commission also recommended that there must be a roster system in all appointments in the State Universities, including the posts of lecturers, and reservation policy must be applied to all teaching posts in the university.

Additionally, the Commission stated that only those whose annual income was not more than Rs 12,000 would qualify. But the High Court struck down the Act made by the State in this regard.

Multiple Roadblocks

Since 1963, the Acts on Reservation for the BCs have been facing various problems. The reservations proposed in 1963 and 1964 were struck down by High Courts and the Supreme Court. According to the judgments of the courts, only caste could not be the criterion for the basis of reservations, because it would be against Articles 15 and 29(2) of the Constitution.
The process of reservations, which were at a standstill till 1970, resumed again with the appointment of BC Commissions headed by the Justice Manohar Prasad and KS Ananta Raman. The Ananta Raman Commission recognised 92 castes as BCs and recommended 30% reservations by classifying them into the categories of A, B, C, D.

Recently, the Telangana legislature passed a resolution to enhance the reservations to the E Group of BCs to 12% based on the recommendations of the Telangana Backward Classes Commission but it is yet to take effect. While governments have now been working to address the needs of the BCs, there is a need to work more proactively to meet their rising aspirations.

(The author is Chairman, Commission for Backward Classes, Telangana)