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Supreme Court Judgment on Reservations

The implementation of reservations is constitutionally mandated and cannot be left to the state’s discretion.

The Supreme Court is again at the centre of a storm of public scrutiny, thanks to a recent judgment on reservations. In Mukesh Kumar v State of Uttarakhand (2020), the Court controversially observed, “There is no fundamental right which inheres in an individual to claim reservations in promotions.” This sparked off a controversy that has reached Parliament, with calls being made to overturn the judgment through a constitutional amendment. This is probably an overreaction as, when seen in context, the Court is really only stating a well-established principle of law—that courts cannot direct governments to reserve a certain percentage of seats for specific communities. This becomes obvious when we see the statement in context:

In view of the law laid down by this Court, there is no doubt that the state government is not bound to make reservations. There is no fundamental right which inheres in an individual to claim reservations in promotions. No mandamus can be issued by the Court directing the state government to provide reservations.

Of course, where the law and Constitution provide for reservations for certain communities, the Court will enforce the right of a member of such a community. However, to give the Court the power to direct the state government to grant reservations at a specific level to specific communities is a dangerous move. Given the elite control of the judiciary by the Savarna upper-middle class, one would shudder to think of the consequences if the Court were left to set the appropriate rules of reservations and criteria for communities considered “deserving” enough to avail it.

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Updated On : 25th Feb, 2020

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