ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Fragmenting the Principle of Reservations

The majority judgment of the Supreme Court favouring the 10% reservation quota for economically weaker sections (EWS) may be considered by some as a welcome step on the grounds that it addresses the question of economic disadvantage. It is needless to mention that such a judgment takes into consideration only one component, that is, material disadvantage suffered by some members from the categories, which hitherto did not fall within the purview of any reservation category.

The majority judgment of the Supreme Court favouring the 10% reservation quota for economically weaker sections (EWS) may be considered by some as a welcome step on the grounds that it addresses the question of economic disadvantage. It is needless to mention that such a judgment takes into consideration only one component, that is, material disadvantage suffered by some members from the categories, which hitherto did not fall within the purview of any reservation category. One may not deny that such a judgment, in theoretical and abstract terms, does promise to reach out to those who are supposed to be economically disadvantaged. However, one may also raise other equally valid concerns—does this judgment address the question of defining an ever-expanding sphere of disadvantage? The editorial comment in the current issue of EPW succinctly foregrounds the bareness of the 10% quota for EWS. As the editorial comment suggests, such a judgment seeks to narrow down the principle of social justice to pragmatic policy interventions. Following from the thrust of the editorial comment, it is necessary to reiterate that the reservation policy is based on the principles of social justice and equality. Most importantly, dignity has been the normative basis of both the
social thought of modern India as well as the Indian Constitution, inspiring the themes of non-discrimination and equality of opportunity outlined in Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution.

In this regard, it is important to trace, very briefly, the genea­logy of the normative thrust of reservations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries’ social thought, which, among other things, was based on the moral justification that was provided by the far-sighted rulers of the princely states such as Mysore and Kolhapur. The statutory reservation quota that was provided to the Scheduled Castes and a host of non-Brahmin castes by these rulers in education and administration of these states was supported by a moral justification.

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Updated On : 26th Nov, 2022
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