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

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Of Merit and Supreme Court: A Tale of Imagined Superiority and Artificial Thresholds

In his thought-provoking work, the Tyranny of Merit, Michael Sandel raises a fundamental question—would a perfect meritocracy be just? Sandel answers in the negative based on the following reasoning—the meritocratic ideal does not remedy inequality rather justifies it. But inequality, even of the type that results because of merit, is not justified for it “ignores the moral arbitrariness of talent and inflates the moral significance of effort.” Though Sandel has challenged the utility of merit powerfully, he is not the first one to do so. The utility of merit as an ideal in achieving an equal society has been questioned since much earlier. Interestingly however in the Indian constitutional jurisprudence on reservation, merit has been consistently invoked and treated as an inviolate ideal. The Supreme Court has rarely, if ever, questioned the idea of merit itself and its utility for the Indian society. Even the Court’s most transformative pronouncements on reservation have remained limited to either broadening the rigid understanding of merit or remedying social and institutional inequality by enhancing the scope of doctrine of equality of opportunity so that meritocratic ideal may be truly achieved. However, this approach of the Court has ensured that importance of the idea of merit remains intact. The article argues that the emphasis of the Supreme Court on merit is responsible for the situation where reservation is evaluated through a meritocratic lens leading to a dilution of the empowering nature of reservation.

The Impossibility of ‘Dalit Studies’

The meaning and implications of the presence of “Dalit studies” in the pedagogical content of higher education in India need to be analysed. “Dalit studies” seeks to intervene into such a space of pedagogical practices and institutional policies in higher education which may have grudgingly accepted the physical presence of the Dalit through affirmative action, but which has nonetheless historically overlooked the thought of the Dalit.

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