The constitution does not describe the term backward classes.
It is up to the centre and the states to postulate the classes that belong to this group. However, it is understood that classes that are not represented adequately in the services of the state can be termed, backward classes.
Further, the President can, under Art. 340 constitute a commission to investigate the condition of socially and educationally backward classes. Based on this report, the president may specify the backward classes. Commission for Enquiring into Conditions of Backward Classes
- Article 340: Appointment of a Commission to investigate the conditions of backward classes.
Safeguards relating to Educational & Public Employment
- Article 15: Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
- Article 16: Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
- Art. 15 (4): “Nothing in this article or in article 29(2) shall prevent the state from making any provisions for the advancement of any socially and economically backward classes of citizens or for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.” This clause started the era of reservations in India. You may please note that Art. 15(4) talks about backward classes and not backward castes thus caste is not the only criterion for backwardness and other criteria must also be considered.
- Art. 15 (5): This clause was added in 93rd amendment in 2005 and allows the state to make special provisions for backward classes or SCs or STs for admissions in private educational institutions, aided or unaided.
- Art. 16(4): This clause allows the state to reserve vacancies in public service for any backward classes of the state that are not adequately represented in the public services.
- Art. 16 (4A): This allows the state to implement reservation in the matter of promotion for SCs and STs.
- Art. 16(4B): This allows the state to consider unfilled vacancies reserved for backward classes as a separate class of vacancies not subject to a limit of 50% reservation.