31 May 1995
The Constitution (Seventy Seventh Amendment) Act, 1995 introduced in Lok Sabha
The Constitution (Seventy Seventh Amendment) Act, 1995 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on May 31st 1995. This Act extended reservations for promotion in employment for Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SCs and STs).
- India’s reservation policy for disadvantaged sections of society was introduced after independence in 1950 and is one of the oldest affirmative action programs in the world.
- Even before independence, there were efforts to bring about a semblance of equality in matters of education and representation by the British and some Indian princely states.
- In 1954, the Indian government’s Education Ministry suggested in a letter to the states that 20% of the seats in educational institutions should be reserved for the SCs and STs. It also suggested a 5% relaxation in the minimum qualifying marks for admission to such institutions.
- Such incentives and measures are in concordance with the Constitution of India. Article 46 (Directive Principles of State Policy) states, “The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.”
- Further, Article 15(4) says, “Nothing in [article 15] or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens of or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.”
- In 1982, the percentage of reservation for SCs and STs was increased from 5% to 7.5%, in a guideline issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to its affiliated colleges and universities.
- In 1992, the Supreme Court of India had ruled that reservation could not be greater than 50%. But there are some states with more than 50% quota and litigations are still on in the Supreme Court. Tamil Nadu, for instance, has a reservation based on castes at 69%.
- In 1992, in the Indra Sawhney case, the Supreme Court had ruled that extending reservation to promotion in employment was unconstitutional but allowed it to be continued for up to five years.
- In 1995, the government brought in the 77th Amendment to the Constitution before the 5-year period expired in order to extend the reservation in government job promotions.
- The Supreme Court in the judgement of the Indra Sawhney case had said that Article 16(4) (which permits the government to make reservations for the backward classes for appointments or posts) extends only for the initial appointment and not for promotions.
- The 77th Amendment’s objective stated that the representation of the SCs and STs had not reached the desired level in the States and that this system had to be continued to bring about their adequate representation.
- This amendment inserted a clause after the clause (4) of Article 16 of the Indian Constitution as follows:
- (4A) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of posts in the services under the State in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes which, in the opinion of the State, are not adequately represented in the services under the State.
- The bill was passed and Act enforced from 17th June 1995. The Prime Minister of India at that time was P.V. Narasimha Rao.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.