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

Articles By Reservations

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.

Does EWS Reservation Redraft the Principles of Social Justice?

The reservation for the economically weaker section has received wider political support, and now with the Supreme Court’s pronouncement in its favour has made it infallible. However, the judiciary is under scrutiny for ignoring the historical context and constitutional principles under which the prospect of social justice policy is constituted. Interestingly in the Court’s 3:2 bench decision, the two judges in opposition have raised pertinent questions on the ethical aspect of the reservation policy. It appears that the sole criterion of economic backwardness would not supplement the constitutional principles and will defeat the basic purpose of the reservation policy.

The Limbu–Tamang Communities of Sikkim

Since its merger in 1975 with the Indian union, one of the major sociopolitical issues in Sikkim has been the demand for reservation in the state legislative assembly for two communities—Limbu and Tamang. The demand of reservation for the Limbus and Tamangs crystallised in Sikkim when these communities were notifi ed as Scheduled Tribes under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 2002. The history and future of this political demand has been analysed.

Political Reservations and Service Delivery in Village Government

The impact of reservations for the Scheduled Castes as village heads (pradhans) is examined on school and governance outcomes. In general, SC reservation is not associated with improved outcomes. The impact differs spatially, based on past history of landlord or non-landlord control under British colonial rule. In historically landlord areas with greater presence of dominant classes and already worse school quality and governance, reservations are associated with no change in outcomes. In the non-landlord areas, reservations are associated with worse outcomes. The findings can be attributed to negative perceptions, discrimination and domination faced by the SCs. For effective formal policy empowerment of the SCs, the attitudes, beliefs and perceptions that dictate the informal rules of individual and social group interactions need to be addressed.

Political Reservation for OBCs

The reluctance of the ruling state government of Maharashtra to conduct an empirical inquiry into the backwardness and refusal of the union government to share the Socio Economic and Caste Census data of 2011 has resulted in a conundrum over the Other Backward Class es reservation in the local self-governance bodies. The responses of the ruling state government and the opposition to the retention of the OBC reservation are explored. The impact of this decision on the OBC politics is also analysed.

Reservations: ​A Project of Nation-building

The history of reservations in India shows that it was an outcome of a long process of struggle to gain recognition and representation for the minorities, especially Dalits. It also shows that the Dalits as an important third force in politics, apart from the Hindus and Muslims, had to compromise and even sacrifice their legitimate demands in this process. Any tinkering with reservations, therefore, is in bad faith and an assault to the Indian nationhood.