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INTRODUCTION

“The Indian constitution is first and foremost a social document, and it is aided by its Parts III and IV (Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy, respectively) acting together as its chief instruments and conscience in realizing the goals set by it for all people.” The constitution was purposefully written in broad strokes (rather than ambiguous language) to ensure its flexibility. Constitutions are divided into two types: rigid and flexible. A constitution’s rigidity or flexibility is determined by the nature of the amendment. Anytime the ordinary laws and constitutional laws are amended separately, the constitution is rigid. In a flexible constitution, however, the two of them; ordinary laws and constitutional laws can be amended in an identical manner. The Indian Constitution is neither too rigid nor too flexible; rather, it is a hybrid of the two.

THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION

The Indian Constitution attempts to strike a balance between rigor and flexibility. A special majority of the Parliament, referring to the two-thirds majority of the members of each house i.e.; Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha present and voting, the majority as well (which should be greater than 50%) of the total membership of each House, can change certain statutes.

Other clauses can be changed with a two-thirds majority in the Parliament and if there is ratification by half of the states. At the same time, there are certain provisions of the Constitution that can be modified in the ordinary legislative process by a simple majority of Parliament. The constitution’s flexibility is enhanced by provisions that allow the parliament to give an addition to the constitution’s provisions with legislation.

The basic structure concept was established in the Kesavananda Bharti case, which has unquestionably strengthened the constitution’s rigor. In fact, if the topic of Basic Structure arises, the Constitution of India is “completely rigorous” according to the Supreme Court. It clarifies that Parliament’s ability to amend the Constitution cannot be used to change, distort, or undermine the Constitution’s core characteristics and principles in any way.

The illustration of India’s constitutional nature has been outlined in this case, which allows for the Parliament to allow changes according to the ever-changing contexts, weighing the importance of such amendments. The Kesavananda case ruling was a thought-provoking, one-of-a-kind, and high-order decision. This 69-day case was meticulously examined, considering every possible outcome of the decision. After a thorough examination of the matter, it was clear that this ruling was required; otherwise, any political party with a two-thirds majority in parliament might propose any alteration that would jeopardize the constitution’s basic structure. Following the implementation of this ruling, the Judiciary, as mandated by the Constitution, is the last arbitrator in determining whether constitutional provisions have been violated. This case overruled Golaknath’s and opened the path for Parliament to fulfill its duty to construct an egalitarian society and welfare state in accordance with the Constitution’s Basic Structure.

This well-known case resulted in the creation of the basic structural theory, which went down in history as saving our constitution and restoring faith in the court, as well as saving the democracy of our country, for which the freedom fighters in the past gave their lives. As a result, the Kesavananda Bharati case has and will continue to have a place in our nation’s constitutional history.

RECENT AMENDMENTS MADE IN THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION

103TH CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ACT,2019
The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act made in 2019 has altered two fundamental rights in the Indian Constitution, namely Article 15 and Article 16. These two clauses form the foundation of reservation in the realms of education and government employment. The state now has the power to establish a maximum of 10% quota for “economically vulnerable sectors” of citizens by adding two new paragraphs to Articles 15 and 16 of the Indian constitution. As a result, the total bookings over and above the existing program have increased to 59.50 percent.

Discrimination on the basis of race, caste, sex, religion, or place of birth is prohibited by Article 15 of the Indian Constitution. The amendment attempts to offer reservation to individuals who do not fall under 15(5) and 15 (4) (essentially, SCs, STs, and OBCs), i.e. economically disadvantaged sections so that they can be admitted to educational institutions other than the educational institutions for the minority mentioned in clause (1) of Article 30.

Discrimination in government employment is prohibited by Article 16 of the Indian Constitution. With the amendment, Article 16 (6) is inserted to enable reservations in government positions for people from economically disadvantaged groups. The “economic weakness” will now be determined based on “family income” and other “economic disadvantage factors.”

The Rs. 8 lakh income limit and asset restrictions to determine economic backwardness are the same as the bar set for determining the ‘creamy layer’ for OBC. This effectively eliminates the distinction between the “EWS other than SC, ST, and OBC-NCL” and the OBC-NCL under the 103rd Amendment. This would result in unequal being treated equally.

The Supreme Court has regularly held that overall reservations should not exceed 50% in order to be reasonable and to not jeopardize the basic right to equality. This ’50 percent ceiling’ however, has been effectively violated by the most recent Constitutional change.

Certain structural concepts, such as democratic government, republican government, secularism federalism, judiciary independence, freedom, equality, judicial review power, and so on, form the core or essence of the Constitution and give it a distinct ‘Identity’. This is dictated by the idea of basic structure, and it cannot be changed since it would jeopardize the constitution’s uniqueness.

The Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case of Kesavananda Bharati v. the State of Kerala that the Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution under Article 368 is not absolute and that even a constitutional amendment can be taken down if there are chances of it abrogating or destroying the Constitution’s “basic structure.” In September 1991, the then-P.V. Narasimha Rao government issued an Office Memorandum reserving ten percent of postings for ‘other economically deprived categories.’ The Supreme Court overturned this verdict in Indra Sawhney v. Union of India. The court in Indra Sawhney v. Union Of India and Ors. examined the constitutionality of the quotas in-depth, delving into the idea of backwardness. The reservation was made for a category of citizens who, according to Dr. BR Ambedkar, are those “groups which have not had so far representation in the State.” Indra Sawhney explains one of the reasons behind the 50 percent quota limit, stating that the Constitution allows for “appropriate representation” rather than “proportionate representation.”

The following are some of the key decisions made in the Indra Sawhney case regarding reservation:
• It supported the OBC reserve of 27%, with the exception of the “creamy layer.”
• It overturned the ten percent reservation for economically disadvantaged people, ruling that a backward category of citizens shall not be defined only on the basis of economic factors.
• It ruled that reservations for brought-forward or piled-up reserved vacancies should not exceed 50% of all appointments each year.
• It ruled that reservations can only be made in service or category if the State is satisfied that the representation of the backward class of citizens is insufficient.

In M. Nagaraj v. Union of India & Ors, the Hon’ble Court upheld the constitutional validity of Article 16 (4A) and the proviso to Article 335 and emphasized that the 50 percent ceiling, the concept of creamy layer, and compelling reasons such as overall administrative efficiency, backwardness, the inadequacy of representation, and are some of the constitutional requirements without which the point of equality for opportunities in Article 16 would be lost. Excessiveness in any form of reservation or evaluation, it has also been suggested, would result in a violation of this constitutional requirement. Because of this, the 50 percent reservation bar has been embedded into the fundamental structure of the Constitution’s code of equality.

The Supreme Court ruled in State of Kerala v. N.M. Thomas that Article 16(1), as a component of the notion of equality, allows justifiable categorization of all citizens who are in a similar situation with respect to the law. In other words, even if Article 16(4) of the Indian constitution is not there, Article 16(1) enables reserves and special treatment. Article 16(4) is not be made an exception to Article 16(1); rather, it aims to express what is already inherent in Article 16. (1).

Indra Sawhney provides a midway ground between N.M. Thomas and M.R. Balaji, according to the Supreme Court’s decision. It found a compromise between substantive equality and nominal equality by retaining the ‘50% ceiling’ criterion.

104th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2020
This Act abolished Anglo-Indian reservations in the Lok Sabha and state legislatures while extending reserves for SCs and STs for up to ten years. On December 9, 2019, Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced this bill for amendment in the Lok Sabha. The bill intended to modify Article 334 of the Constitution. On December 10, 2019, the Lok Sabha passed the Bill with 355 votes in favor and there were 0 votes against it. On December 12, 2019, the bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha, where it gained 163 votes in favor and there were 0 votes against it. President Ram Nath Kovind of India gave his assent to the law on January 21, 2020, and it was published in the Indian Gazette the same day. On January 25, 2020, the amendment took effect.

Aside from the fact that the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes have shown some significant progress for the last 70 years, the reasons that played a part in the Constituent Assembly’s decision to make provisions for the aforementioned reservation of seats still exist, according to Minister of Law and Justice Ravishankar Prasad. Due to this, an amendment to the Constitution was needed in order to keep the Constitution’s inclusive nature as intended by the founding fathers.

The Ministry of Law and Justice further stated that the issue of the extension of Anglo-Indian reservation in the Legislative Assembly had not yet been raised. However, he stated that the matter of terminating the reservation will be addressed by the center at a later date and that the subject matter has not been completely resolved.

The reservation seats for the Anglo Indians were not extended as it was for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which was one of the main criticisms of the amendment. The objective and reason for such an Amendment, provide justification for such enactment. The 104th Constitutional Amendment’s declaration of goal and reason explains the enlargement of the SC and ST reservations but it does not explain why the Anglo-Indian reservation seats were not extended or increased.

In Prashar v. Vasantsen Dwarkadas (1963), the Supreme Court decided that the statement of purposes and reasons for adopting a piece of law cannot be used to interpret the statute if the language used is plain enough. The declaration of objects and reasons, on the other hand, can be utilized to figure out what led to the law and what the problem was being solved through the legislation.

Parliamentarians have considered the interpretation of extending for SCs and STs with the goal of the founding authors of the Constitution. However, when it came to Anglo-Indians, the approach was not in the spirit of the founding fathers, but rather based on numerical data from the 2011 Census, rather than the report on the Anglo-Indian Community given by the 2013 Ministry of Minority Affairs. Anglo-Indians face challenges such as loss of culture, unemployment, identity crisis, educational backwardness, and a lack of acceptable housing amenities, according to a 2013 Ministry of Minority Affairs fact-finding report.

105th CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ACT, 2021
On August 9, 2021, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment introduced the 127th Amendment Bill of the Constitution, which was later approved as the 105th Constitution (Amendment) Act. both the Houses of the legislature passed the act unanimously without delay on subsequent days. The major goal of enacting this Act was to bring back the states’ ability to identify their own state’s backward classes.

SEBC and OBC
In India, the Centre creates a separate list that recognizes the Other Backward Classes (OBC). Similarly, each State determines which classes are classified as Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) of that state. Articles 15(4), 15(5), and 16 of the Indian Constitution have established these lists which are essential for the framework of reservation and quotas.

The Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act of 2018 was enacted to address the Central List of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs). Independent lists of the backward classes have been maintained by the Central Government and the State Governments since 1993. However, the Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act of 2018 raised the question of whether it mandated a single Central List of SEBCs detailing the SEBCs for each State, removing the State’s ability to establish and maintain its own State List of SEBCs. Furthermore, because authority has already been given to the Central government to issue lists, including Central in the then-amended Article 342A was redundant.

A contentious piece of legislation- which is The Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, was considered unconstitutional until the Supreme Court pronounced it illegal in Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil v. Chief Minister (2021).

Several writ petitions challenging the constitutional legality of the reservation act have been filed in the Bombay High Court. The petitioner’s primary points of contention were as follows:

The Act is unlawful because it exceeds the 50% ceiling established on a reservation in any state according to the Indra Sawhney v. Union of India decision (1992).

The Act establishes reservations based on the Justice Gaikwad Commission’s findings, which purportedly lacks trustworthy, scientific, and appropriate facts to prove either Marathas’ backwardness or the extraordinary circumstances that justify raising reservations in Maharashtra.

The Act establishes reservations based on the Justice Gaikwad Commission’s findings, which purportedly lacks trustworthy, scientific, and appropriate facts to prove either Marathas’ backwardness or the extraordinary circumstances that justify raising reservations in Maharashtra.

The state government had passed the Act without complying with the 102nd Constitution (Amendment) Act’s procedural provisions.

The respondent- The Maharashtra State Government, argued that special circumstances, such as an increase in the incidence of suicides among Maratha families due to social and economic issues, justified the Act.

The Bombay High Court upheld the reservation for the Marathas but requested the state administration to cut it to 12-13 percent — the level proposed by the State Backward Class Commission, as opposed to the 16 percent given by the Act. The rationale was that, as the Maharashtrian government demonstrated, the Supreme Court-imposed ceiling on the total percentage of seats might be exceeded in extraordinary situations.

The Supreme Court accepted an appeal from the Bombay High Court’s verdict for the Maharashtra state government on July 12, 2019. The bench overturned the High Court verdict and declared the SEBC Act unconstitutional since there were no special circumstances that allowed for the violation of the 50% reservation mark. This was the unanimous decision of the Bench.

Meanwhile, the majority of the Bench, with two exceptions, believes that the 102nd Amendment deprives the state of the ability to identify backward classes. According to the ruling, only the President can issue a list that points out the economically disadvantaged, which Parliament can then change. In this regard, states merely have a recommending power. On this point, Justices Bhushan and Nazeer dissented, believing that Parliament did not have any intention to withdraw the States’ identification authority.

CONCLUSION

The Indian Constitution is a fusion of the United States’ basic law doctrine and the United Kingdom’s unwritten constitution’s theory of Parliamentary sovereignty. In other words, the Constitution is very stiff that Parliament, the supreme law-making body, cannot modify it. India picked a medium ground between the formality of the United States Constitution and the flexibility of the United Kingdom’s unwritten customs in order to allow the new nation to grow smoothly.

These Constitutional Amendments are significant because it reflects our society’s growing need for development and advancement, particularly among those who need it the most due to their backwardness. The fact that many communities require the presentation of the OBC category for reasons other than political power is linked to the belief that many of them have a lot of room for development in India. The severe caste system has yet to be dismantled, and this bleak reality requires further reflection and policy creativity. Another problem raised by this Amendment is how will the responsibilities be carried out by the states, as states will now be driven by local politics to include newer communities in their OBC lists.

As a result of the Constitution Amendment Bill, the standard operating procedures of the OBC, the scheduled castes, and tribes reserve have been clarified, ensuring empowerment and representation for communities that are frequently left out of inclusive development debate. Its goal is to empower people from underdeveloped communities by improving their social status via quality education and job opportunities, paving the road for inclusive development.

Written by Tingjin Marak, a student at Ajeenkya DY Patil University, Pune.

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