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December 12, 2017

Politics of Caste: Cabinet paves the way for sub-categorization within OBCs to extend the benefit of reservation to more castes


Newsroom24x7 Staff

Newly launched Ugta Suraj Party (USP), which wants reservation on economic basis and not on the basis of caste, has said that Mandal is now being taken a bit too far by the Narendra Modi led NDA Government. USP has demanded that the 50 per cent limit on reserved quota should be made water tight. Once that is done the clamor for reservation will die down. According to USP, it is also unfair to the merit candidate who has to loose some seats and also see competition from those declared as reserved.

New Delhi: The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday (23 August 2017) approved a proposal for setting up of a Commission under article 340 of the Constitution to examine the issue of sub-categorization of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

Even if the sub-categorisation of OBCs for reservation brings in more sections of the population that were not getting the benefit of reservation till now under the OBC category, reservation can’t be extended beyond 50% because Supreme Court of India has given a directive to give reservation up to 50% only. This is a directive also covered in letter and spirit in Article 15 (5 ) and 16 (4) of the Constitution.




Supreme Court of India has fixed the benchmark for reservation in the Indra Sawhney (November 1992) case. The order in this case says; “Since this Court has consistently held that the reservation under Articles 15(4) and 16(4) should not exceed 50% and the States and the Union have by and large accepted this as correct it should be held as constitutional prohibition and any reservation beyond 50% would liable to be struck down. Therefore,

(i) Reservation under Article 16(4) should in no case exceed 50%;

(ii) No reservation can be made for any class other than backward class either under Article 16(1) or 16(4).

(iii) Preferential treatment in shape of weightage etc. can be given to those who are covered in Article 16(1) but that too has to be very restrictive.”

The Central Government is trying to bring in more castes under the OBC category by further sub-categorisation of castes on the one hand and at the same time also increasing the number of people from the OBCs who would now be vying for a fixed number of posts and seats in higher education and other benefit by raising the creamy layer ceiling by Rs 2 lakh from Rs. 6 lakh to Rs 8 lakh. In this way as reservation can’t be beyond 50 per cent, a scenario would not be created where more people will be clamouring for a fixed quota and with the creamy layer slab now going up the worst hit would be the poor among the OBCs.

Moreover under the law of the land it is imperative that all communities getting the benefit of reservation should compete within the 50 per cent limit as fixed by the Supreme Courtwithout poaching on the other 50 per cent of general merit. it is seen that there is a clamour by all communities to get themselves declared backward. They, especially those who are in the higher earning group bracket get the best of both worlds – general merit plus backward community reserved quota.

Newly launched Ugta Suraj Party (USP), which wants reservation on economic basis and not on the basis of caste, has said that Mandal is now being taken a bit too far by the Narendra Modi led NDA Government. USP has demanded that the 50 per cent limit on reserved quota should be made water tight. Once that is done the clamor for reservation will die down. According to USP, it is also unfair to the merit candidate who has to loose some seats and also see competition from those declared as reserved.

Article 340 in The Constitution Of India 1949 allows for the appointment of a Commission to investigate the conditions of backward classes.

Under this Article:

The President can order appointment of a Commission consisting of such persons as he thinks fit to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India and the difficulties under which they labour and to make recommendations as to the steps that should be taken by the Union or any State to remove such difficulties and to improve their condition and as to the grants that should be made for the purpose by the Union or any State the conditions subject to which such grants should be made, and the order appointing such Commission shall define the procedure to be followed by the Commission

A Commission so appointed can investigate the matters referred and present to the President a report setting out the facts as found and make appropriate recommendations.

The President can cause the tabling in both Houses of Parliament a copy of the report of teh Commission together with a memorandum explaining the action taken thereon.

The Commission being set up as per the decision of the Union Cabinet on Wednesday (23 August 2017) shall submit its report within 12 weeks from the date of appointment of the Chairperson of the Commission. The Commission shall be known as the Commission to examine the sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes.

The proposed terms of references of the Commission are as follows:

(i) To examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes/ communities included in the broad category of OBCs, with reference to the OBCs included in the Central list.
(ii) To work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters, in a scientific approach, for sub-categorization within such OBCs, and,
(iii) To take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes/communities/ sub-castes/ synonyms in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories.

The Supreme Court in its order dated 16 November 1992 in WP(C) No. 930/1990 (Indra Sawhney and others vs. Union of India) observed that there is no Constitutional or legal bar to a State categorizing backward classes as backward or more backward and had further observed that if a State chooses to do it (sub-categorization), it is not impermissible in law.



Nine States of the country viz., Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Puducherry, Karnataka, Haryana, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have already carried out sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes.

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