Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Course Correction by Indian Supreme Court

Long live India’s Supreme Court! The initial judgments and observations by the court in the case of ‘caste based reservations in employment and education’ look truly path breaking. Here is the quick run down of Court’s opinion in multitude of these cases and ongoing arguments as reported in Times of India:

- Court is in favor of extending the concept of ‘creamy layer’ to SC and ST categories too.

(For readers who may not be familiar with India’s affirmation program - Creamy layer is the mechanism by which prospective employer or an education institute does not offer ‘affirmative action’ considerations to those who are from backward castes but are also from economically and socially well to do sections of the society. Creamy layer consideration is currently applied to reservations for Other Backward Castes (OBC) but not to Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) groups of Indian society. Reservations for SC and ST are constitutionally guaranteed in the original form of Indian constitution whereas reservations for OBC have been added afterwards under various laws passed subsequently.)

- Court would like to see the ceiling on reservations at 50% of total available jobs or educational opportunities.

- Court would not want to carry forward unfilled reserved positions indefinitely.

- Finally, court is showing the venerable sense while contending that it does not take lightly the attempts by Legislature to put anything and sundry under the protection of Schedule 9. Laws in Schedule 9 can not be over turned by the Court even when Court finds that those laws may not be consistent with India’s constitution.

For all the farce of reservation system done by India’s political parties (from Left to BJP, all of them); Court’s expression of opinions along above mentioned lines is truly breath taking and of fundamental importance to India’s future, her State, her Society and Indian Democracy. It can not be over emphasized the importance and significance of these legal developments. This is all for the good of India.

It is the course correction for India because Supreme Court is taking a stance which is clearly against the misguided prevalent political thinking in India and the court is doing so in order to carry India’s constitution in complete letter and spirit. Independent Judiciary in Democracy is far too precious and these proceedings in India’s Supreme Court are making Indian Democracy strong, proud and in the end serving well to India’s masses. If this batch of Supreme Court judges is able to carry through such thinking to it’s logical end; they will have done Babasaheb Ambedkar and India’s Founding Fathers and Mothers proud.

It is true that compulsions of electoral politics, tendencies of Indian politicians in taking easy and low routes of governance and generally not so mature democracy (just around 60 years for India’s state so far); all these limitations may overcome all the good legalistic work of this or any other competent Court in India. So one should not be over excited about these rulings nor should have high expectations that any rulings along these lines will be scrupulously followed. But that is the battle for another day. Today it is important that some ‘lever’ of India’s Democracy takes a righteous stand in this whole mess of ‘reservation system’ and this Supreme Court is showing that courage as well as necessary intellectual aptitude. That is an occasion to cheer.

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA 95111
October 31, 2006.

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