SC seeks response on reserve constituencies
14 November 2000
By Our Legal Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The extension of reservation of constituencies for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes for another 10 years has attracted the attention of the Supreme Court. It sought the response of the Union government and the Election Commission on a petition challenging the Constitution (79th amendment) Act, 1999.

Through this amendment, Parliament has extended by 10 years the reservation of constituencies for the SCs/STs in the Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies. A Bench comprising Justice S.P.Bharucha, Justice Doraiswamy Raju and Justice Shivaraj V Patil on Monday heard arguments of petitioners' counsel Ashok Srivastava and B.Sen.

The petitioners, Mirza Rafiullah Baig, Bahadur Mal Jain and Ashok Kumar Jain and the non-Scheduled Caste/Tribe voters from Tonk Lok Sabha constituency of Rajasthan, have sought a declaration that the 79th Constitutional amendment and all other laws which provide for caste-based reservation are unconstitutional and against the basic features of the Constitution.

They have contended that despite being registered as voters and being fully qualified and eligible except for the reason that their constituency is reserved for members of SCs/STs, they have been denied the right to represent the constituency for the past 30 years.

The petitioners argued that though the SC population is only 1,96,936 out of a total of 9,75,006, others numbering 7,78,070 have been denied their right to contest from 1967 onwards. Due to this unwarranted reservation criteria, at least 80 crore citizens belonging to general category are rendered ineligible to represent 120 Lok Sabha and 1081 legislative assembly seats, the petition said.

The petition said: ``All its members were meticulous and unanimous that at the end of 10 years it must come to an end automatically. '' According to it, the caste-based reservation was opted for as a substitute for the system of separate electorate announced by the then British prime minister Ramsay McDonald in August 1932. His announcement, which was known as the ``communal award'', proposed separate electorates for the ``depressed classes'' for the first time.

The petition, filed by counsel Sushil Kumar Jain, added: ``Having accepted the international norms of democracy by signing the covenant, which acknowledges rights of every citizen to vote and be elected, we cannot invent new definition of democracy to suit our political convenience''.

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