20 Sep 2023 6:34 AM GMT
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday (September 20) posted a batch of cases challenging the reservations provided for Scheduled Castes(SCs) and Scheduled Tribes(STs) communities in Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies for hearing on November 21.The bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud along with Justices AS Bopanna, MM Sundresh, JB Pardiwala, and...
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday (September 20) posted a batch of cases challenging the reservations provided for Scheduled Castes(SCs) and Scheduled Tribes(STs) communities in Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies for hearing on November 21.
The bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud along with Justices AS Bopanna, MM Sundresh, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra will adjudicate upon the validity of the Constitution(104th) Amendment Act 2019, which extended the political reservations for SC/STs by another ten years. The bench however clarified that it will not go into the validity of the previous extensions given for SC/ST reservations through earlier amendments.
The following issues were framed in the matter–
1. Whether the Constitution (104th Amendment) Act 2019 is unconstitutional?
2. Whether the exercise of constituent powers of amendment to extend the period prescribed for the expiration of period of reservations under Article 334 is constitutionally valid?
The bench clarified that the second issue as framed, shall not impinge on the legitimacy of the amendments to the Constitution which were made prior to the 104th amendment. The bench further added–
"The validity of the 104th amendment shall be determined to the extent that it applies to the SCs and the STs since the reservations for Anglo Indians has come to an end at the expiration of 70 years from the commencement of the Constitution."
Further, the bench renamed the cause-title of the case as, "In Re: Article 334 of the Constitution".
The common compilation of documents shall be filed on or before 17 October 2023. The written submissions shall be filed on or before 7 November 2023. The proceedings shall be listed on 21 November 2023.
Senior Advocate C Aryama Sundaram, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that that issue was whether the amendments violated the basic structure of the Constitution. He also submitted that it has to be analysed if there was any quantifiable data regarding lack of representation which justified the amendments; otherwise, the amendments will suffer from the vice of "manifest arbitrariness".
"You are saying reserving seats for one community deprives another community of the same and thus goes against the basic structure. That is your submission", CJI Chandrachud summarised the arguments of Sundaram.
What is the matter about?
Article 334 of the Constitution, in its original form, provided that reservations for SC/STs and Anglo-Indians in Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies will cease to have effect after ten years from the commencement of the Constitution, which means in 1960. However, the provision was amended from time to time to extend the period of reservation by ten years.
The petitions were filed in the year 2000 challenging the Constitution (79th) Amendment Act, 1999, which extended the political reservations by another ten years by substituting the word "50 years from the commencement of the Constitution" in the proviso to Article 334 with "60 years from the commencement of the Constitution".
In 2003, a Division Bench of Supreme Court referred the matter to a 5-Judge Constitution Bench. In 2009, the Parliament for the sixth time, amended Article 334 and further extended the reservations for a period for SC/ST and Anglo-Indian communities by another 10 years.
Further, in 2019, the 104th Amendment to the Indian Constitution was made and this extended the time limit for terminating SC and ST seats in the House of Commons and State Legislatures by another ten years by substituting the word "70 years" with "80 years". This amendment also put an end to reservations for Anglo Indians by not extending its period. The amendment came into force with effect from January 25, 2020.
Case Title: Ashok Kumar Jain v. UoI W.P. (C) No.546/2000 [Now renamed as "In Re: Article 334 of the Constitution"]