Centre seeks extension of SC/ST reservations in Lok Sabha, Assemblies in SCtext_fields
New Delhi: The Centre has expressed its intent to submit additional material to bolster its case in favour of extending the reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta made this announcement before a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, which is currently addressing petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of the Constitution 104th (Amendment) Act.
The Constitution bench, presided over by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and comprising Justices A S Bopanna, M M Sundresh, J B Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, has set November 21 as the date for a detailed hearing on the matter.
Senior advocate Arayama Sundaram, representing the petitioners, raised several crucial questions during the hearing. He questioned whether amendments to Article 334 of the Constitution, which extend the period of reservation for SCs and STs, should undergo closer judicial review, considering the limited reservation policy initially enshrined in the Constitution.
Sundaram also highlighted the necessity to examine whether objective and quantifiable data exist to justify such extensions, thereby avoiding the charge of "manifest arbitrariness" and ensuring compliance with Article 14.
Moreover, he raised concerns about whether these amendments violate the basic structure doctrine by removing judicial review challenges related to constituency delimitation and seat allocation for SCs and STs.
"If Your Lordships say it can be continued and decide against us on the other issues, then another issue would arise whether the distribution of the number of seats for SCs and STs without rotation is violative of Article 14 and whether the delimitation act is violative of Articles 81, 82, and 170 of the Constitution," Sundaram asserted.
The Constitution bench indicated its intention to scrutinize the Constitution (104th Amendment) Act, 2019, to determine whether it is "unconstitutional."
However, Sundaram pointed out that reservations have been extended every ten years, suggesting that future amendments could be made. The bench then confirmed that it would also assess the constitutionality of using constituent powers to amend Article 334's reservation period.
The bench emphasized that its examination would not cast doubt on the legitimacy of previous amendments made before the 104th Amendment. It clarified that the "validity of the 104th amendment shall be determined to the extent it applies to SCs and STs only since the reservation for Anglo-Indians in Article 334(B) has come to an end on the expiration of 70 years after the adoption of the Constitution."
The cases revolve around the validity of the Constitution (104th) Amendment Act 2019, which extended political reservations for SC/STs by another ten years. However, the Bench clarified that it will not assess the validity of previous extensions granted for SC/ST reservations through earlier amendments.
The Constitution Bench has framed two critical issues for examination:
Constitutionality of the 104th Amendment: The central question here is whether the Constitution (104th Amendment) Act 2019 is unconstitutional.
Constituent Powers of Amendment: The Bench will also consider the constitutionality of exercising constituent powers of amendment to extend the period prescribed for the expiration of reservations under Article 334.
Importantly, the second issue will not question the legitimacy of amendments made prior to the 104th Amendment. The Bench has specifically stated that its focus will be on the 104th amendment concerning SCs and STs, as reservations for Anglo-Indians have already ended 70 years from the commencement of the Constitution.