Mains Value Addition
From Prison, A Covid Alert
Issue 1: On Revisiting the Indra Sawhney Ruling:
The key question before SC is whether the 1992 ruling in the Indra Sawhney case had to be revisited.
What is Indra Sawhney or Mandal Case of 1992?
It is a 9-judge bench ruling that upheld the Mandal Commission report by laying down two important precedents:
The criterion for a group to qualify for reservation is “Social & Educational Backwardness”.
It reiterated the 50% limit to vertical quotas reasoning that it was needed to ensure “Efficiency” in the administration
This 50% limit is breached only in exceptional circumstances.
What is the Verdict on this issue?
The state govt in support of the Maratha quota that exceeded the 50% limit argued that the Indra Sawhney verdict must be revisited because an arbitrary ceiling is not envisaged by the Constitution.
In a unanimous ruling, the court declined to revisit the case by saying that although the ceiling was arbitrary in 1992 but now it is Constitutionally recognized.
Issues 2&3: On whether the Maratha law can be saved under the exception.
On the question of Whether the Maratha quota falls under the exceptional circumstances contemplated in Mandal Case.
The court looked into Maharashtra State Backward Commission Report & also the States argument which says it has an 85% backward class population but only a 50% reservation limit.
So the case falls under exceptional circumstances ground.
But the court rejected the argument on grounds that Marathas are dominant forward class & are in the mainstream of National life.
Issues 4,5,6: On State’s power to identify SEBCs, & 102nd Amendment:
What is 102nd Amendment?
The 102nd Constitutional Amendment gives Constitutional status to the National Backward Classes Commission.
It also empowers the President to notify backward classes.
Several states have opposed the amendment on grounds that it essentially curtails states’ powers.
The supreme court has passed the following judgment on this issues with a 3:2 majority:
The National Backward Classes Commission set up under Article 338B will recommend a new list of SEBCs for states & a central list to the President who say regarding inclusion or exclusion of SEBCs is final.
In case of modification or exclusion from the lists initially published the power lies with Parliament.
Under Article 142, SC also issued a direction that says, Until a new list of SEBCs publishes, existing lists operating in all States & UTs for all purposes continue to operate.
Explain how the separate reservation for the Maratha community violates Articles 14 (right to equality) 21 (due process of law). What is the socio- political impact of the Supreme Court judgement?
The India Justice Report 2020 (IJR) released last month provides a good analysis that could form the basis of a sustainable programme of decongesting prisons. The report points out that undertrials constitute nearly 70% of all prison inmates. In 35 states and UTs, the share of undertrial inmates was above 50%. Over five years, the share of undertrial prisoners shows an increasing trend in 23 states/UTs
At a time of critical shortages in hospital infrastructure & oxygen supply, there is a challenge for state to safeguard prisoners’ lives by forcibly releasing them & leaving them to fend for themselves. Discuss.