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  • Anshu Sharma

Special Provisions Relating to Certain Classes (Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes)

Anshu Sharma

Delhi Metropolitan Education, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University

Special Provisions Relating to Certain Classes

Introduction

Reserved categories in Indian society include SCs, STs, and OBCs, and subcategories that require special attention to be given to trigger the improvement of social and economic disparities. SC usually refer to people belonging to the list called ‘Scheduled Castes’ who are socially impoverished and treated as untouchables historically. Scheduled Tribes are recognized as warded tribes and they are the inhabitants of forest region and are least contact with other communities. Other Backward Classes Socially and in terms of educationally are disadvantaged classes but they are not categorized under SC/ST.

SCs and STs were defined outcasts and remained sufferer of social injustice, economic oppression and political or political step-children. They were restricted from learning, purchasing land, and procuring jobs, and because of this, a cycle of poverty and societal isolation prevailed. In the case of OBCs, unlike SCs and STs they too were significantly disadvantaged in their social and economic mobility.

After the independence to overcome such rooted discriminations, Indian political leadership, composite and inclusive in its objectives, endeavoured to construct a social framework that may offer no less than a level playing field for all irrespective of cast or tribe specific identity. Namely, the special provisions were not only intended to remedy past discriminations but also to enable the previously excluded to now obtain the same opportunities as others under equal conditions to be productive for the Nation’s development. These aims speak of social justice and Indian desire to eliminate age-old injustices of the past prevalent for centuries and promote the society, which is progressive in terms of social justice.

Constitutional Provisions

The Constitution of India has several provisions of articles exclusively meant for the protection, upliftment and development of the SCs, STs and the OBCs. These provisions are meant to address the past wrongs and offer equality to such groups of people in the society. These key articles include: -

Article 15: Prohibition of Discrimination on Grounds of Religion, Race, Caste, Sex, or Place of Birth

Article 15(4) says that the State shall be at liberty to make provisions for the ‘special advantage’ to any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens including SCs and STs. Based on the constitution, it is possible to advocate for affirmative action and reservation policies as means of enabling equality.

Article 16: Equality of Opportunity in Matters of Public Employment

Article 16 guarantees equality of all the citizens of India in the matter of employment or undergoing any test for any office under the state. Thus, it prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth or place of residence. The article also empowers the state to undertake any necessary measure relating to the reservation of appointments or posts in regard to any backward class of citizens who, in the opinion of the state, is not sufficiently represented in the services under the state.

Article 17: Abolition of Untouchability

Article 17 of the Indian Constitution removes the practice of untouchability and declares it as illegal to practice in any form. ‘Untouchability’ is meaning discrimination of certain sections of people based on their caste status and their social status as outcaste or ‘Untouchables’. This article makes it a criminal offense to indulge into practice untouchability or to incite untouchability in society so that nobody discriminates on ground of caste.

Article 23: Prohibition of Traffic in Human Beings and Forced Labour

Before proceeding to Article 23, it is also important to know that slavery, trafficking in persons, and forced labour are prohibited. This means that no one shall be compelled to work and hence practices like beggar, slavery as well as bonded labour are prohibited. In this respect, the article seeks to safeguard the rights of people and to prevent any opportunity for exploitation or for the denial of the people’s liberties and their worth as human beings.

Article 24: Prohibition of Employment of Children in Factories, etc.

According to article 24, no child should be allowed to work with any factory, mine or in any other type of hazardous work if the child is less than 14 years of age. This article is meant to guard the rights of children from having to be exposed to unhealthy adolescent employment and to safeguard their childhood rights.

Article 46: Promotion of Educational and Economic Interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Weaker Sections Constitutional ruling in Article 46 mandates the state to work towards the educational and economic uplift of the weaker sections of the society namely the SCs and STs. These groups are protected from further social injustice or be exploited by society and the state to promote their progress and well-being.

Article 243D: Reservation of Seats in Panchayats

The constitution carve out special provisions for the representation in Panchayats [Local bodies at the village level] that require reservation of places for SCs, STs and women. It makes sure that these groups are represented and involved sufficiently in the local governments participating in the establishment of equity in decision-making procedures.

Article 243T: Reservation of Seats in Municipalities

Being concerned with the right of suffrage and elections, it contains provisions addressing the reservation of seats in municipalities. Likewise, Article 243D, Article 243T foresees the provision of the number of seats for SCs, STs and women in the Municipality which is a local body similar to Panchayats in the towns and Cities. This article also makes it easier for the people to actually get structures of urban local governance that are developed with participation from all the people in society.

Article 330: Reservation of Seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People

Article 330 is a provision for reservation of seats for the SCs and STs exist in the Lok Sabha or the House of the People. This makes it possible for these disadvantaged groups to be valued by the de jure polity through having a place in the national legislature to raise their grievances and opinions.

Article 332: Reservation of Seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States

Article 332 requires that in the legislative assembly of the states of India, there should be a provision of reservations to SCs and STs. This provision aims at making sure that such communities are accorded a fair chance in state legislatures and contribute to political processes at this level.

Article 334: Reservation of Seats and Special Representation to Cease After certain period

The Article 334 meant the gradual abolishment of the provisions for reservation of seats for SCs and STs in the Lok Sabha and in the assemblies of the states and also for the representation of the Anglo-Indian community, after a sixty years’ period from the commencement of the Constitution. However, this period has been adjusted several times even through the amendments of the Constitution.

Article 335: Claims of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to Services and Posts

According to Article 335, claims of the members of the scheduled castes and tribes should be considered when appointing services and posts with the union or state governments. But it also notes this objective should be part of efforts to sustain the efficient functioning of the administration. This means that apart from ensuring that SCs and STs are represented and granted employment in public firms, the government must also ensure that such appointment does not in any way affect the efficiency and performance of the public organs. This article seeks to allow disadvantaged groups in the society to compete for civil opportunities without compromising bureaucratic efficiency.

Article 338: National Commission for Scheduled Castes

Article 338 provides for the establishment of a National Commission for Scheduled castes. This commission is set with an important responsibility of protection of the rights and interests of Scheduled Castes. The responsibilities of the commission include: 1. Studying and supervising all aspects of the protection of SCs in the Constitution or any other law that applies. 2. Investigating specific complaints on violation or denial of right and protection of the SCs. 3. Invited as practitioners to participate in and provide input to the planning process of socio-economic development for SCs. 4. Assess the advancement of their development under both the Union and State governments. 5. As for their socio-economic situation, they are also expected to make recommendations on how their status can be enhanced.

Article 338A: National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)

According to Article 338A of the Constitution, there is the provision of percent reservation but the National Commission for the Scheduled Tribe has not been set up. This commission is primarily concerned with protecting the rights of the Scheduled Tribes (STs) in Indian Country. Some notable functions of NCST include studying and over seeing matters concerning the reserved rights for STs, assessing the advancement of STs in their socio-economic welfare, and advising the President or any state authority on any policy matters that are favourable to STs. Through its function as the implementing arm of various laws and policies that were enacted for and in protection of the STs, NCST also plays a role to protect the rights and warranted welfare measures for the minorities. It holds powers of being a protector of the rights of STs and suggest an appropriate action to be taken by the responsible authority in case of violation of rights.

Article 338B: National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC)

This commission has been given certain responsibilities it is to discharge towards the socially and educationally backward classes in India or OBCs. Some of the major roles of NCBC are to make recommendations and enhance the social status of OBCs, to evaluate and monitor further socio-economic development of OBCs, and to give its opinion to the president or any state government about the OBCs. NCBC functions as statutory body for proper implementation of the policies and the programs which are put forward for the OBC’s social uplift and for the proper addressal of the issues that this segment face in society. It has power to enquire into the specific allegations of any person stating that he or she has been denied of his rights. The formulation of an institution of the nature details herein supports the constitutional provisions on the status of persons in the backward classes in the country.

Article 340: Appointment of a Commission to Investigate the Conditions of Backward Classes

Article 340 of the Constitution of India, which contemplates that the President of India may, out of his own motion or on a request from the state government, constitute a commission to ascertain the situation or inadequacy of the provisions of the constitution in regard to the socially and educationally backward classes of the people in the territory of India. This commission’s mandate was to establish the challenges experienced by these classes in order to provide solutions to the challenges. These backward classes are supposed to be uplifted by adopting policies and other measures by the government which is being guided by commissions like these. This article tries to draw attention to fighting the historical injustices that the above communities have been subjected to, with an aim of improving their social and economic well-being.

Therefore, together these articles lay the groundwork for affirmative action policies and reservations in India. This also refers to practices like reservation of certain percentage of seats in educational institution, public places particularly cost sector jobs and in the legislative bodies for SCs, STs and OBCs. In essence, the purpose entails trying to give them the best chance in life – as in access to education, employment and political participation which are core aspects of life that make up for social and economic statuses.

Legislation and Policies for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes

●India has several laws and policies aimed at safeguarding the rights of and eliminating the discrimination against the SCs, STs, and OBCs. Among various laws enacted, the act to prevent cruelty against the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 is one of the most prominent ones. This law was aimed to check all sorts of brutalities, horrible crimes against SCs and STs and their protection of their honour and lives. It spells out criminal conducts in form of violent and discriminative acts against specified groups, raises provisions for formation of special courts to try such offences and equally spells out ways of victim support such as compensation and rehabilitation.

●Besides the act, there are many other policies developed with the intention to enhance the rights of these groups of people. For instance, the quota policies in education and in employment – guarantee that 27% of places in schools and colleges and in government jobs must be occupied by SCs, STs, OBCs respectively. The measures are intended to provide the mentioned groups with equal opportunities as well as the decrease the socio-economic inequalities of their statuses.

●Further, there are economic solutions such as giving loans at lower interest rates for new establishments or opportunities for students to get scholarships as well as various social reforms aimed at offering the needy people shelter, healthcare, and other essentials.

●These have led to improved levels of education, enhanced employment statuses, rates among these groups, and thus enhanced economic mobility and stability. However, the effectiveness of these laws largely depended on having a strong enforcement regime in the country to support them.

Reservation in Education and Employment

Reservation policies in India with regard to education and employment exist for the purpose of affording the backward sections of the society a chance to elevate themselves through education, considering the fact that a large number of SCs, STs, and OBCs are in desperate need of reservations. Although they posed positive effects, struggles and discords continue to persist and occur, as evidence implies that these may require constant revaluation and even policy modification if they are to serve their purposes effectively.

The Indian government has set some laws for the proportion of seats that are to be reserved in colleges and universities for SCs, STs, and OBCs. For example, 15% of the seats have to be in the SC category, 7. 5% for STs, and 27% for OBCs in Central Government institutions has been considered for the current year’s data. This policy is designed to guarantee the inhabitants of these communities better opportunities of obtaining tertiary education, preventing the poverty and marginalization.

Likewise, almost all governmental organizations in India retain a specified quota for the recruitment of SC, ST, and OBC candidates. These include promotions, and this means that a part of the available promotional positions in the company will be saved for individuals belonging to these groups. This policy is to improve their position in governmental service where they always lag behind compared to other higher castes.

The implementation of the policies of reservation has shown a very positive result by improving the proportions of SCs, STs, and OBCs in education and government jobs, though the effectiveness of this policy has remained a contentious issue. This has been perceived as strength since the polices have helped many people from the marginalized groups to achieve educational and career success that they would not have attained before though, challenges remain.

Welfare Programs

The government normally employs the following welfare policies for the upliftment of downtrodden societies like SCs, STs and OBC. They are designed to redress the past and to offer individuals a pathway to some form of economic or social mobility.

● Economic Development Programs

These include several central government schemes, meant for the upliftment of the SC, ST and OBC sections of the society. This involves offering financial support and other resources, including training, to enable people to establish their own businesses. This can include affordable credit facilities, subsidies, and or grants specifically touching the identified communal groups. The paramount one is scholarships, which are also crucial, as they are intended for financial support of students from these groups to continue their education at the next level. As a result, scholarships make education affordable to many students since some of the costs like tuition fees are eliminating, making education crucial for the long-term economic advancement.

A few schemes that Indian Government has initiated over the years are Entrepreneurial schemes of NBCFDC, Credit Enhancement Gaurantee Scheme for the Scheduled Castes (SC’s), Pradhan Mantri Dakshta Aur Kushaita Sampann Hitgrahi Yojana, etc.

● Social Welfare Programs

These programmes are designed for the betterment of the living and nutritional and health standards of SCs, STs and OBCS. For instance, housing schemes give out affordable homes, it makes sure that households from such generators have a place to live in that is safe and secure. Through health care programs, medical services are made available and affordable for all underlying disabled persons. This consists of opening clinic and hospitals in rural areas, providing free or cheap treatments, or organizing programs that educate the citizens on health and sanitation. It is for such reasons that these efforts are essential in this regard as they impact the immediate welfare of disadvantaged populations and enhance their living standards so as to afford them an opportunity to become active members of the existing society.

A few schemes that Indian Government had initiated over the years are Pradhan Mantr Anusuchit Jaati Abhyuday Yojna, PM Young Achievers Scholarship Award Scheme for Vibrant India for OBCs and Others, Support for Marginalised Individuals for livelihood and Enterprise (SMILE), etc. 

Political Representation

Reservation of Political Rights for the STs/SCs/OBCs in India is a vital component of providing the population that belongs to the categories the opportunity to have the appeal heard and be a part of the political processes. This is done through the articles in the Indian constitution, which provides for the reservation of seats in the Parliament and State Legislatures, Panchayati Raj Institutions and Municipal bodies.

Reservation of Seats in Parliament and State Legislatures: The Indian Constitution has provision for the reservation of a certain percentage of seats in the Lok-Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies for the SCs & STs. This system makes sure that such communities are accorded a sure shot in the legislative kingdoms which offers liberty to fight for anticipations in legislative procedures. For example, constituencies wherein only candidates belonging to SCs or STs are allowed to stand for elections even though all voters in the electoral division are eligible to vote.

Panchayati Raj Institutions and Municipal Bodies: At the local level, the state and union territory governments especially provide reservation for SCs/STs in Panchayati- Raj institutions and municipal bodies, by way of a provision of reserved seats for the minorities especially OBCs in many states. This is well provided for in the Constitution under the 73rd and the 74th amendments in order to allow these communities to be given a voice in governance. To ensure the objectives stated above and the affirmative discrimination policy is to reserve certain seats for the above-mentioned Scheduled Areas in the village panchayats, block panchayats, district panchayats and urban local bodies with a view to approach governance to such deprived sections in an effective manner and ensure that they play an active role in the decision-making process at the grassroots level.

These reservations have challenged the political participation of SCs, STs, and OBC sections of the society in a big way. When such communities are compensated in the legislative and local governance, they have higher chances of participating in the change of policies and decisions affecting them. By advocating for political representation and enfranchisement of these groups, it contributes to improving the nature of political representation for such demographics. Further, it assists in tackling prejudicial social evils such as past injustices and socioeconomic inequalities since those groups are allowed the chance to air out their grievances and concerns. Therefore, political reservations do good for a society as it remains democratic, accurate, and builds an inclusive culture for people within the society in their own politics.

Landmark Judgements for SC, ST, and OBC Provisions

  1. Indra Sawhney vs Union of India (1992)

Popularly referred to as the Mandal Commission case, this judgement gave its affirmation to the reservation made for 27% of the OBC positions in the central government recruitments as well as in educational setups. The Court also has yet provided for the practice of the ‘creamy layer’ with a view to excluding the upper sections of the Other Backward Classes from the reserved categories, in order to smoothly reach out to the really needy.

  1. M. Nagaraj vs Union of India (2006)

This case was centered on the matter of provisions of reservation for SC’s & ST’s in promotions in Government jobs. The supreme court was dealing with the constitutional provision of reservation in promotions hence in its judgment upheld the constitutionality of such provision but in the following paradigm: It required that the government must prove the backwardness of the community, the reason as to why they require affirmative action on employment within the public sector as well as prove the efficiency of the administration.

  1. Ashoka Kumar Thakur vs Union of India (2008)

In this case the Supreme Court had agreed with the 93rd Constitutional Amendment by permitting some proportion of reservation in private unaided educational institutions and the professional colleges based on SCs, STs, and OBCs. This judgement strengthened the position of the state in accepting the principles of affirmative action in education to the disadvantaged groups.

  1. Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta (2018)

Coming back to the M. Nagaraj judgement the apex court opined the call for proof of backwardness of SCs and STs for giving promotions was not warranted. On the questions of inadequacy of representation and efficiency of administration, the Court retained these as the criteria, but omitted the requirement of establishing backwardness as this had become superfluous given that SCs and STs were classified as backward classes under the Constitution.

  1. E.V. Chinnaiah vs State of Andhra Pradesh (2004)

This judgement dealt with the aspect of subclassification which is in relation to SCs with reference to reservation. The court held that the moment one is classified as belonging to SC, there cannot be any re-definition of such person for different treatment. This helped in avoiding internal posting point where some members of the SCs are locked out while other are favoured by their membership status within a particular SC.

  1. Maratha Reservation Case (2020)

This case is officially titled Dr. Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil vs The Chief Minister while the Maharashtra legislation extending the shackles of quotas in employment opportunities as well as education to the Maratha community was declared ultra vires by the Supreme Court. The Court also deemed that the measure of 50% quota formulated in Indra Sawhney judgement should not be crossed, and extraordinary circumstances were said to outweigh this limit.

  1. Chebrolu Leela Prasad Rao vs State of Andhra Pradesh (2020)

In this case, the Supreme Court struck down the rule of 100% reservation of teachers belonging to ST community in school located in scheduled areas of Andhra Pradesh. In such circumstances, the Court concluded that such blanket reservations infringe the right of equality and are unconstitutional.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it can be said that Indian Government has initiated notable policy shifts and revisions in the legal structure to enhance the standard of living of SCs, STs, and OBCs. These groups have suffered discrimination and social marginalization thus international bodies have been called upon to intervene in affirmative action by giving special reservations in education and government jobs to boost employment. The laws against discrimination and violence especially by women and juveniles have been advanced such as amendments to the Act of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes prevention of atrocities to provide for a rigid punishment and reporting system. These policies, for instance, do indicate some improvement but controversy still arises from their potential contribution to the positive transformation of the general socio-economic status of such groups of people.

Cases cited

  1. Indra Sawhney Etc. Etc vs Union Of India And Others, 1992 (3) SCC(SUPP) 217

  2. M. Nagaraj & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. (2006) 8 SCC 212

  3. Ashoka Kumar Thakur V. Union Of India (2008) 6 SCC 1 138

  4. Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta,  2018 (10) SCC 396

  5. Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil v Chief Minister, Maharashtra, SLP (C) 15737/2019

  6. Chebrolu Leela Prasad Rao vs State Of A.P, AIRONLINE 2020 SC 488

References

 

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