Constitution does not have provisions for reservations for economically weak sections, says J Chelameswar

Retired Supreme Court Justice J Chelameswar on Wednesday said the Constitution does not have provisions for reservations for economically weak sections, The Indian Express reported.

The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019, was passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8 and in the Rajya Sabha a day later. The law, which was approved by President Ram Nath Kovind on January 12, grants 10% reservation in government jobs and education institutions to those in the general category with an income of less than Rs 8 lakh per annum. According to a Scroll.in report, Chelameswar made the statement while responding to a question after delivering the first Ambedkar Memorial Lecture, titled “Seven decades of the Constitution” at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai. Chelameswar was among the four Supreme Court judges who had held a press conference in January 2018 to highlight a crisis in the judiciary under Dipak Misra, who was chief justice at the time.

The retired judge said the Constitution only allows legislators to make reservations for socially and educationally backward sections of society. “The text of the Constitution only enables Parliament or the Legislative Assembly to make reservations for socially and educationally backward segments of society not economically weaker sections,” he said. “To what extent the current programme will be sustained in court, I do not know and it is to be seen. I can only say that the text of the Constitution does not provide for it.” A petition has been filed before the Supreme Court challenging the law.

In his address, Chelameswar talked about safeguards to democracy and the flaws in the system. “At the gathering, each person present had a position of importance in the governance of the country,” he said while sharing an anecdote. “Mr Brahma [Hari Shankar Brahma], a former election commissioner of the country, a man who had first-hand knowledge of the electoral process, said that Rs 50 crore is spent to become a MP in the country. It is too serious a matter. Someone who spends that much, will work to recover the money and not to implement the Constitution.”

He emphasised the need for judicial reforms and pointed out that an academic discussion, including criticism of any judgment, cannot be considered contempt of court. Chelameswar called on students to take an active interest in the developments and to protest against wrongdoings.

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