Case analysis of Indira Sawhney v. UOI

By | September 15, 2016

INDIRA SAWHNEY

Vs.

UNION OF INDIA

 DATE OF JUDGMENT: 16 /11/1992

BENCH: M KANIA, M VENKATACHALIAH, S R PANDIAN, A.M. AHMADI, K SINGH, S.B.SAWANT, R SAHAI, B J REDDY, T.K. THOMMEN,

CITATION:  AIR 1993 SC 477, 1992 Supp 2 SCR 454

STATUTES REFERRED: Constitution of India

Article 15(4): Nothing in this article or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

Article 16 (1): There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.

Article 16(4): Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favor of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.

Article 340(1):The President may by order appoint a Commission consisting of such persons as he thinks fit to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India and the difficulties under which they labour and to make recommendations as to the steps that should be taken by the Union or any State to remove such difficulties and to improve their condition and as to the grants that should be made for the purpose by the Union or any State and the conditions subject to which such grants should be made, and the order appointing such Commission shall define the procedure to be followed by the Commission.

CASES REFERRED:

Balaji v. State of Mysore AIR 1963 SC 649

State of Kerala v. N.M. Thomas AIR 1976 SC 490

Devadason v. Union of India AIR 1964 SC 179

STATEMENT OF FACTS:

  • On January 1, 1979, the Government headed by the PM Sri Moraji Desai appointed the second Backward Classes commission u/a 340 of the Constitution to investigate the SEBCs within the territory of India and recommend steps to be taken for their advancements.
  • The commission submits its report in December 1980 and identified 3743 castes as socially and educationally backward classes and recommend a reservation for their 27 % Government jobs for them.
  • Due to internal dissensions, Janta Government collapsed and Congress party headed by PM Smt. Indira Gandhi came to power at the center. The Congress government didn’t implement the commission report till 1989.
  • In 1989 the Congress party defeated and Janta government again came to power and issued Office Memoranda to implement the commission report as it promised to the electorate. After passing this memorandum threw the nation into turmoil and a violent anti-reservation movement rocked the nation for three months resulting in huge loss of persons and property.
  • On 1 October 1990 a writ petition on behalf of the Supreme Court Bar Association was filled challenging the validity of the O.M. and for staying its operation. The five-judge bench of the court stayed the operation of OM till the final disposal of the case.
  • Unfortunately, the Janta Government again collapsed due to defections and Congress party again came to power at the centre headed by P.V. Narasimha Rao issued another O.M. on September 25, 1991 by introducing the economic criterion in granting reservation by giving preference to the poorer sections of SEBCs in the 27 % quota and reserved another 10% of vacancies for other SEBCs economically backward sections of higher caste.

OUTCOME:  The five-judge bench referred the matter to a special Constitution Bench of 9 judges in view of the importance of the matter to finally settle the legal position relating to reservation.

 SUPREME COURT DECISION:  The decision is given by the 6:3 majority held that the decision of the Union Government to reserve 27% Government jobs for SEBCs provided them Creamy layer among them eliminated is constitutionally valid. The court struck down the second provision of Office Memoranda and held that reserving 10% Government jobs for economically backward classes among higher caste is not valid.

ISSUE:

  1. WHETHER THE CLASSIFICATION IS BASED ON THE CASTE OR ECONOMIC BASIS?
  2. WHETHER THE ARTICLE 16 (4) IS EXCEPTION OF ARTICLE 16 (1) OR NOT?
  3. WHETHER IN ARTICLE 16 (4) BACKWARD CLASSES ARE SIMILIAR AS SEBCs IN ARTICLE 15 (4) OR NOT?
  4. WHETHER THE CLASSIFICATION BETWEEN BACKWARD CLASS INTO BACKWARD OR MORE BACK WARD CLASS IS VALID OR NOT?

OPINION:

On a thorough reading of the fact of the case and its judgment, I have come to many a deduction. This case is a landmark case on the reservation of post of BC citizens in government jobs which describe the scope and extent of Article 16 (4).

On coming on the first issue that whether the classification is based on caste or economic basis the court rightly held that the caste can be quite often and social class, if it is backward socially it would be a BC for the purpose of article 16 (4) and caste alone, can’t be taken into consideration for purpose of identification of the backward classes. The majority judges said that the neither the Constitution nor any law prescribes the procedure or method of identification of backward classes, nor it is possible for the courts to lay down any procedure or method, it is left to the authority appointed to identify.

On Coming on the second issue court is well justified and held that the article 16 (4) is not an exception to article 16(1) but an independent clause. Reservation can be made under clause (1) on the basis of reasonable classification and overruled the decision of Balaji v. State of Mysore[1]

On coming on the third issue the court held that the backward classes of citizen in article 16 (4) is not same as SEBCs referred to article 15 (4). Article 16(4) is a much wider scope and includes all other SC, ST and all other backward class of citizens including the SEBCs.

On coming on the fourth issue the court rightly describe this approach and held that the sub classification between backward classes and more backward classes is valid and overruled the decision of the Balaji case. It is necessary to do sub classification otherwise advances sections of the backward classes might take all the benefit of reservation.

In this case, the honorable court has rightly implemented this approach of understanding this article of the constitution that the cream layer must be excluded from the backward classes. It can be best understood by example given by the court that the if the member of a designated backward class becomes a member of IAS or IPS or any other all India service his status in society is rising he is no longer socially disadvantaged and it should not logical that his children should be given benefit of reservation. The court also said that there are certain post and services to which it may not be advisable to apply the rule of reservation. For example technical post in research & development organization, department institution in the super specialty in medicine, engineering, physical science, and maths, in defense service , pilots in Indian airlines, scientists and technicians in nuclear and space etc.

The court while giving the judgment mentioned that the reservation should not exceed 50 percent and reservation can’t be made in promotions. The court also overruled the decision of the Devdason v. Union of India[2] and held that carried forward rule is valid provided that it should not result in breach of 50 percent rule. The 50 percent limit can only be exceeded in the extra ordinary situations prevailing in far-flung states like Nagaland, Tripura etc. And it need be made by parliament and legislature. The majority also made it clear that any disputes regarding can be raised only in the Supreme Court, not in the high court and any other tribunal.

The final verdict of the case according to me was well justified. The court has made a bold attempt to strike a balance between the interests of society and educationally backward classes and a person belonging to the general category in matters of government employment but  There was a bit miscarriage while dealing with this case the court can also include the poor section of high castes in SEBCs.

[1] Air 1963 sc 649

[2] AIR1964 SC 179

Mayank Shekhar
Author: Mayank Shekhar

Mayank is a student at Faculty of Law, Delhi University. Under his leadership, Legal Bites has been researching and developing resources through blogging, educational resources, competitions, and seminars.

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