Laws about vulnerable sections can be seen in two dimensions:
There are certain constitutional provisions which cover all vulnerable sections (common to all).
Also, there are provisions which deal only with specific sections.
Constitutional Provisions for the vulnerable section of SC/ST/OBC and minorities
- Art. 15(4): Clause 4 of article 15 is the fountainhead of all provisions regarding compensatory discrimination for SCs/STs. This clause was added in the first amendment to the constitution in 1951 after the SC judgment in the case of Champakam Dorairajan vs State of Madras.
It states thus, “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.
In the case of Balaji vs State of Mysore, the SC held that reservation cannot be more than 50%. Further, 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.
Finally, in the case of Indra Sawhney vs the Union of India, SC upheld the decision given under Balaji vs State of Mysore that reservation should not exceed 50% except only in special circumstances. It further held that it is valid to sub-categorize the reservation between backward and more backward classes. However, total should still not exceed 50%. It also held that the carry forward rule is valid as long as reservation does not exceed 50%.
More constitutional provisions
- 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.
- Art. 17: This eradicates untouchability and its practice in any form. Although the term untouchability has not been demarcated in the constitution or in any act but its meaning is to be understood not in a literal sense but in the context of Indian society.
Due to the varna system, some people were relegated to do menial jobs such as cleaning toilets. Such people were not to be touched and it was considered a sin to even touch their shadow. They were not even allowed to enter public places such as temples and shops.
The constitution struggles to remove this abhorring practice by not only making the provision a fundamental right but also allows punishment to whoever practices or abets it in any form.
Towards this end, Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 was enacted. It has implemented several measures to eradicate this evil from the society. It stipulates up to 6 months imprisonment or Rs.500 fine or both. It impresses upon the public servant to investigate fully any complaint in this matter and failing to do so will amount to abetting this crime.
In the case of State of Kar. vs Appa Balu Ingle, SC upheld the conviction for preventing a lower caste person from filling water from a bore well.
In Asiad Projects Workers case, SC has held that right under Art 17 is available against private individuals as well and it is the duty of the state to ensure that this right is not violated.
- Art. 19(5): It allows the state to impose restriction on freedom of movement or of residence in the benefit of Scheduled Tribes.
- Art. 40: Provides reservation in 1/3 seats in Panchayats to SC/ST.
- Art. 46: Enjoins the states to promote with care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections, especially SC and STs.
- Art. 164: Appoint special minister for tribal welfare in the states of MP, Bihar, and Orrisa.
- Art. 275: Allows special grant in aids to states for tribal welfare.
- Art. 330/332: Allows reservation of seats for SC/ST in the parliament as well as in state legislatures.
- Art. 335: Allows relaxation in qualifying marks for admission in educational institutes or promotions for SCs/STs.
In the case of State of MP vs Nivedita Jain, SC held that complete relaxation of qualifying marks for SCs/STs in Pre-Medical Examinations for admission to medical colleges is valid.
- Art. 338/338A/339: Establishes a National Commission of SCs and STs. Art. 339 allows the central govt. to direct states to implement and execute plans for the betterment of SC/STs.
- Art. 340: Permits the president to appoint a commission to investigate the condition of socially and economically backward classes and table the report in the parliament.