The Constitution has been modified multiple times in order to keep up with societal changes. The Constitution was written to build an equitable society in which social, economic, and political justice are preserved, as well as equality of position and opportunity for all. Amendments to the Constitution are also made with the same goal and intent in mind. According to India’s legal history, anytime the Supreme Court issued a ruling on reservations, the Parliament would either reject or restrain the uncomfortable judicial declaration by amending the Constitution. One such example is the ratification of the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019, which aimed to grant reservations to economically disadvantaged parts of society.
The Constitution Amendment Act of 2019 amended Articles 15 and 16 of the Indian Constitution. These two clauses provide the foundation of reservation in sectors like education and government employment. The legislation enabled the state to grant a maximum of 10% reserve for “economically weaker parts” of society by inserting two additional articles into Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution. As a consequence, the total number of reservations over and above the existing programme has risen to 59.50 percent.
Need for the 103rd Amendment
- This specific amendment will deal with a problem that is prevalent in India, which is the upper caste pupils who were unable to attend public employment and further education owing to improper family financial structure.
- Also, many of the upper caste residents live in poverty and starvation.
- The higher caste poor will be able to receive the same level of quota as OBC thanks to this adjustment to the reservation policy.
- The upper caste used to despise people who entered the country through reservations, but this amendment will help to end that practice.
What were the Amendments and the Additions?
- The Amendment added clauses 15(6) and 16(6) to the corresponding provisions of Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution, respectively.
- The amendment gave the state the power to pass legislation aimed at “advancing any economically disadvantaged portion of citizens other than the classes indicated (in the preceding provisions).”
- Article 15(6)(b) specifically mentions “admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions referred to in clause (1) of article 30. Article 15(6)(a) discusses allowing the enactment of special provisions of any kind.
- EWS reservations are required per Article 16.6 in situations involving “appointments or postings.
- The Act specifies a 10% cap on this reserve as its maximum.
The requirement for amending Constitutional clauses
For social and economic advancement, the Constitution is modified. In the case of Keshavanada Bharati v. The State of Kerala (1973), it was noted that the people would turn to extra-constitutional tactics, such as a revolution, to modify the Constitution if no provisions were created for its amendment. Politicians have characterized the federal constitution as stiff because of the way amendments are made in federations. The American Constitution’s amending process is exceedingly challenging. The federal Constitution is frequently criticized for being overly conservative and for being too difficult to change.
The Indian Constitution was therefore drafted in a way that would allow it to adjust to the shifting needs and circumstances of an expanding people in order to avoid becoming inflexible. However, the framers did not want to make the Constitution overly pliable since it would have allowed the ruling party to play to its whims and fancies. The Constitution may be changed since it is neither too strict nor too flexible. According to Willis, there would always be a risk of revolution if no provisions for the amendment were made to the United States Constitutional Law. The risk of taking action that is too quickly would always exist if the technique of the modification were too simple. Our political institutions would be at risk of being overthrown in any scenario.
Therefore, the goal behind altering the Constitution under Article 368 was to bring about societal transformation. The Constitution’s amendment process functions as a safety valve designed to maintain the document’s provisions and to allow for amendments if needed. The risk of having a non-amendable Constitution and the risk of a Constitution that is too easily amendable have therefore been balanced by the constitution-makers.
The challenge to the Constitution’s validity
The Constitution’s “Identity” is formed by certain structural concepts, which include federalism, equality, freedom, secularism, independence of the judiciary, power of judicial review, democratic form of government, republican form of government, and others. The basic structural theory established this, thus it cannot be changed without destroying the constitution’s unique character. The Supreme Court ruled in the precedent-setting case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala that the Parliament’s ability to amend the Constitution under Article 368 is not absolute and that even a Constitutional amendment can be invalidated if it has the result of destroying or repealing the “basic structure” of the Constitution.
A government office memo from the P.V. Narasimha Rao administration in September 1991 set aside 10% of positions for “other economically deprived categories.” In Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, the Supreme Court overturned this judgment. The court examined the legality of the quotas in Indra Sawhney v. Union of India and Ors., carefully analyzing the idea of backwardness. As per, Dr. BR Ambedkar, the classes of people for whom reservations were to be introduced are those “communities who have not had thus far representation in the State.” Indra Sawhney, where it was believed that the Constitution allowed for “appropriate representation” rather than “proportionate representation,” explains one of the reasons why the quota limit was set at 50%.
The following is a list of some of the crucial decisions made in the Indra Sawhney case regarding reservations:
- It upheld the 27% OBC reservation with the condition that the “creamy layer” excluded.
- It declared that a backward class of citizens cannot be established solely and exclusively with regard to economic backward criteria and nullified the 10% quota for economically backward portions.
- It was decided that the reservations made for backlog or carried-forward vacancies were valid; should not exceed 50% of the annual appointments
- It was decided that reservations may only be issued for a service or category if the State was satisfied that the representation of people from the underprivileged class was insufficient.
Does the action contradict the Constitution’s basic structure doctrine?
Youth for Equality, a non-profit organization, filed a Public Interest Litigation with the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution, alleging that the legislation’s decision to grant a ten percent reservation to students from economically disadvantaged groups in public and private educational institutions violates the fundamental principles of the Constitution and supersedes earlier rulings.
The question that emerges initially is that can the basic rights be amended? This can be explained by the 1951 case of Shankari Prasad v. Union of India, in which the constitutionality of the First Amendment Act of 1951, which included Articles 31 A and 31 B, was contested. The argument against the Amendment was that it violates the rights granted by Part III, which is prohibited under Article 13(2) and is therefore invalid. It was argued that because Parliament is included in the definition of “state” in Article 12, the term “Law” in Article 13(2) must also refer to a constitutional amendment.
The next issue is whether the Constitution’s fundamental principles are violated by the Act. The solution may be found by first defining the idea of the fundamental structure before concluding. Although the courts have made various rulings in this regard, they have not defined the idea of the Constitution’s fundamental structure. The idea was debated in the well-known Kesavananda Bharati Case, in which the petitioners actually contested the legitimacy and scope of Article 368, arguing that it lacked any restrictions and so ran counter to the fundamental principles of the constitution.
The Indian Constitution establishes an “equality code” to address historical injustices and the obvious inequality in higher education and state jobs. Everyone is guaranteed equal protection under the law and equality before the law under Article 14.
In M.R. Balaji v. State of Mysore, the Supreme Court declared that the reservation should not exceed 50% and overturned the 68% restriction imposed by Article 15 (4) on admissions to medical and engineering institutes in the (then) State of Mysore. According to the rationale behind the “50% ceiling” for reservations in the M.R. Balaji case, the exception cannot supersede the rule. There is nothing to prevent the State from exceeding the “50% ceiling” for reservations if Article 16(4) does not constitute an exception to Article 16(1), provided that the total population of the underrepresented classes is not itself less than 50%. In India, nevertheless, this is not the case.
However, the Supreme Court determined in State of Kerala v. N.M. Thomas that Article 16(1), which is a component of the equality theory, allows for the reasonable classification of all people who are in a comparable situation with regard to a statute identical to Article 14. In other words, even without Article 16(4) of the Indian Constitution, Article 16(1) itself enables reserves and preferential treatment.
In other words, even without Article 16(4) of the Indian Constitution, Article 16(1) itself enables reserves and preferential treatment. Article 16(4) only seeks to make explicit what is already implicit in Article 16 and does not seek to be an exception to Article 16(1). (1). The alternative argument, on the other hand, contends that Articles 15(4) and 16(4), which allow for racial and ethnic minorities in public employment and education, are “exceptions” to Articles 15(1) and 16(1)’s provisions for equality and non-discrimination, and that therefore, exceeding the “50 per ceiling” constitutes reverse discrimination. Indra Sawhney’s decision by the Supreme Court, in essence, constitutes a compromise between M.R. N.M. and Balaji Thomas. It established a compromise between nominal equality and substantive equality by reinstating the “50% ceiling” norm.
The Constitution has been amended and introduced in order to stay up with societal advancements. In order to assure economic upliftment for the populace and to offer benefits to those who experience unemployment and are unable to pay for their school costs, the Constitutional Amendment Act, 2019 has also been proposed and passed. The other fundamental rights and other Constitutional provisions are not in any manner at odds with the Act. It may be said that by revising the Act, the government has given all people equal rights and benefits in terms of economic advancement and has in reality acceded to the Constitution of India’s requirements.
- The Gazette of India.
- Indian Constitution, art. 15.
- Indian Constitution, art. 16.
- Kesavananda Bharati vs State Of Kerala And Anr , 1973.
- The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription | National Archives. (2015, November 4). National Archives. https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcript
- Indian Constitution, art. 368.
- Indra Sawhney Etc. vs Union Of India And Others, Etc., 1992.
- Sri Sankari Prasad Singh Deo vs Union Of India And State Of Bihar, 1951.
- M. R. Balaji And Others vs State Of Mysore, 1962.
- State Of Kerala & Anr vs N. M. Thomas & Ors, 1975.
This article is written by Puneet Kaur, a second-year student.