Mandal Commission and Aftermath In 1979, the Morarji Desai Government appointed the Second Backward Classes Commission under the chairmanship of B P Mandal, a Member of Parliament, in terms of Article 340 of the Constitution to investigate the conditions of the socially and educationally backward classes and suggest measures for their advancement. The commission submitted its report in 1980 and identified as many as 3743 castes as socially and educationally backward classes. They constitute nearly 52% component of the population, excluding the scheduled castes (SCs) and the scheduled tribes (STs). The commission recommended for reservation of 27% government jobs for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) so that the total reservation for all ((SCs, STs and OBCs) amounts to 50%. It was after ten years in 1990 that the V P Singh Government declared reservation of 27% government jobs for the OBCs. Again in 1991, the Narasimha Rao Government introduced two changes: (a) preference to the poorer sections among the OBCs in the 27% quota, i.e., adoption of the economic criteria in granting reservation, and (b) reservation of another 10% of jobs for poorer (economically backward) sections of higher castes who are not covered by any existing schemes of reservation.
In the famous Mandal case (1992), the scope and extent of Article 16(4), which provides for reservation of jobs in favour of backward classes, has been examined thoroughly by the Supreme Court. Though the Court has rejected the additional reservation of 10% for poorer sections of higher castes, it upheld the constitutional validity of 27% reservation for the OBCs with certain conditions, viz,
(a) The advanced sections among the OBCs (the creamy layer) should be excluded from the list of beneficiaries of reservation.
(b) No reservation in promotions; reservation should be confined to initial appointments only. Any existing reservation in promotions can continue for five years only (i.e., upto 1997).
(c) The total reserved quota should not exceed 50% except in some extraordinary situations. This rule should be applied every year.
(d) The ‘carry forward rule’ in case of unfilled (backlog) vacancies is valid. But it should not violate 50% rule.
(e) A permanent statutory body should be established to examine complaints of over-inclusion and under-inclusion in the list of OBCs.
With regard to the above rulings of the Supreme Court, the government has taken the following actions:
(a) Ram Nandan Committee was appointed to identify the creamy layer among the OBCs. It submitted its report in 1993, which was accepted.
(b) National Commission for Backward Classes was established in 1993 by an act of Parliament. It considers inclusions in and exclusions from the lists of castes notified as backward for the purpose of job reservation.
(c) In order to nullify the ruling with regard to reservation in promotions, the 77th Amendment Act was enacted in 1995. It added a new provision in Article 16 that empowers the State to provide for reservation in promotions of any services under the State in favour of the SCs and STs that are not adequately represented in the state services. Again, the 85th Amendment Act of 2001 provides for ‘consequential seniority’ in the case of promotion by virtue of rule of reservation for the government servants belonging to the SCs and STs with retrospective effect from June 1995.
(d)The ruling with regard to backlog vacancies was nullified by the 81st Amendment Act of 2000. It added another new provision in Article 16 that empowers the State to consider the unfilled reserved vacancies of a year as a separate class of vaccancies to be filled up in any succeeding year or years. Such class of vacancies are not to be combined with the vacancies of the year in which they are being filled up to determine the ceiling of 50% reservation on total number of vacancies of that year. In brief, it ends the 50% ceiling on reservation in backlog vacancies.
(e)The 76th Amendment Act of 1994 has placed the Tamil Nadu Reservations Act of 1994 in the Ninth Schedule to protect it from judicial review as it provided for 69 per cent of reservation, far exceeding the 50 per cent ceiling.
4. Article 17 abolishes ‘untouchability’ and forbids its practice in any form. The enforcement of any disability arising out of untouchability shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.
In 1976, the Untouchability (Offences ) Act, 1955 has been comprehensively amended and renamed as the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 to enlarge the scope and make penal provisions more stringent. The act defines civil right as any right accruing to a person by reason of the abolition of untouchability by Article 17 of the Constitution.
The term ‘untouchability’ has not been defined either in the Constitution or in the Act. However, the Mysore High Court held that the subject matter of Article 17 is not untouchability in its literal or grammatical sense but the ‘practice as it had developed historically in the country’. It refers to the social disabilities imposed on certain classes of persons by reason of their birth in certain castes. Hence, it does not cover social boycott of a few individuals or their exclusion from religious services, etc.
Under the Protection of Civil Rights Act (1955), the offences committed on the ground of untouchability are punishable either by imprisonment up to six months or by fine upto ^500 or both. A person convicted of the offence of ‘untouchability’ is disqualified for election to the Parliament or state legislature. The act declares the following acts as offences:
(a) preventing any person from entering any place of public worship or from worshipping therein;
(b) justifying untouchability on traditional, religious, philosophical or other grounds;
(c) denying access to any shop, hotel or places of public entertainment;
(d) insulting a person belonging to scheduled caste on the ground of untouchability;
(e) refusing to admit persons in hospitals, educational institutions or hostels established for public benefit;
(f) preaching untouchability directly or indirectly; and
(g) refusing to sell goods or render services to any person.
The Supreme Court held that the right under Article 17 is available against private individuals and it is the constitutional obligation of the State to take necessary action to ensure that this right is not violated.
5. Abolition of Titles
Article 18 abolishes titles and makes four provisions in that regard:
(a) It prohibits the state from conferring any title (except a military or academic distinction) on any body, whether a citizen or a foreigner.
(b) It prohibits a citizen of India from accepting any title from any foreign state.
(c) A foreigner holding any office of profit or trust under the state cannot accept any title from any foreign state without the consent of the president.
(d) No citizen or foreigner holding any office of profit or trust under the State is to accept any present, emolument or office from or under any foreign State without the consent of the president.
From the above, it is clear that the hereditary titles of nobility like Maharaja, Raj Bahadur, Rai Bahadur, Rai Saheb, Dewan Bahadur, etc, which were conferred by colonial States are banned by Article 18 as these are against the principle of equal status of all.
In 199610, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the National Awards—Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Sri. It ruled that these awards do not amount to ‘titles’ within the meaning of Article 18 that prohibits only hereditary titles of nobility. Therefore, they are not violative of Article 18 as the theory of equality does not mandate that merit should not be recognised. However, it also ruled that they should not be used as suffixes or prefixes to the names of awardees. Otherwise, they should forfeit the awards.
These National Awards were instituted in 1954. The Janata Party government headed by Morarji Desai discontinued them in 1977. But they were again revived in 1980 by the Indira Gandhi government.