Caste-based reservations may go, but it’s for Parliament to decide: Supreme Court

All caste-based reservations may go and only those meant for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) may remain, the Supreme Court said on Thursday even as it clarified that it was a radical idea and a policy matter to be decided by the government and Parliament.

On the ninth day of hearing on revising the 1992 Mandal case, advocate Shriram P Pingle submitted before a five-judge Constitution Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan on behalf of SCBC Welfare Association that an endeavour should be made to remove caste-based reservations in a phased manner because the issue was getting politicised.

“That is for Parliament and the legislature to consider. It is a welcome idea… When the Constitution was enacted, the object was a caste-less, egalitarian society…Your thoughts are very radical and good. But it is for the government to take a decision that caste and reservations should go,” the Bench said.

It said, “Mr Pingle you may be right. This may be a beginning, all reservations may go and only EWS (reservation) may remain. But these are policy matters,” it noted. Noting that affirmative action was not limited to reservation alone, the top court had on Monday said states should take additional steps to promote education and establish institutions for the upliftment of socially and educationally backward classes (SEBS). “Why can’t other things be done. Why not promote education and establish more institutes? Somewhere this matrix has to move beyond reservation. Affirmative action is not just reservation,” it had noted.

The Bench—which also comprised Justices L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat – had last week sought to know if there was no limit to quota what would happen to the concept of equality. “What about the resultant inequality? How many generations will you continue…?” it had asked.

The Bench is considering whether the nine-judge Bench verdict in the Indira Sawhney (Mandal) case which fixed 50% ceiling for quota in government jobs and admission to educational institutions should be revisited by a larger Bench in view of subsequent constitutional amendments, judgments and changed social dynamics. 

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