As the Supreme Court has ruled that conducting a caste-based census is against the law, the people would like to know what steps the Prime Minister will take to sustain the policies of reservation. By Era Sezhiyan
In its judgment of November 7, 2014, the Supreme Court set aside two orders of the Madras High Court that had directed the Centre to conduct a caste-based census. In the judgment of October 2008, the Madras High Court observed that a caste-based census would increase the percentage of reservation in favour of the weaker sections. In May 2010, the Madras High Court reiterated that decision. The Supreme Court held that such decisions of the High Court interfered in the government's domain of policymaking.
M. Karunanidhi, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president, and other leaders of the party watching the procession taken out by the DMK on January 23, 1994, to press for the continuation of the existing scheme of 69 per cent reservation. Photo:The Hindu Archives
In 1951, there were two cases before the High Court of Madras involving reservation for backward classes in public services and in educational institutions: Champakam Dorairajan vs State of Madras and Venkataraman vs State of Madras. The Madras High Court had struck down the Communal Government Order passed by the Justice Party government in Madras Presidency in 1921 that had provided for caste-based reservation. In the appeal, the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that these two reservations were against the law. To validate the policy of reservation, the Government of India took steps to introduce a Bill in Parliament amending the Constitution. Speaking on May 29, 1951, in Parliament on the report of the Select Committee that was set up to look into the First Amendment, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said: "Now I don't for an instant challenge the right of the High Court of Madras, to give the decision.... Nevertheless, while it is quite valid and we bow before the decisions of the court, the fact remains that we are faced with a situation for which the present generation is not to blame. Therefore, some sort of special provisions must be made. We have to do something for the communities which are backward educationally, economically and in other respects, if we wish to encourage them in these matters. We come up against the difficulty that, on the one hand, in our Directive Principles of Policy we talk of removing inequalities, of raising the people in every way, socially, educationally and economically, of reducing the distances which separate the groups or classes of individuals from one another; on the other, we find ourselves handicapped in this task by certain provisions in the Constitution."