India’s new path to social equality disregards justice – UCA News

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The Indian constitution has been amended to accord special quotas for the poor among upper-caste people in an unjust manner

India’s new path to social equality disregards justice

Indian young Brahmins from the Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul Vishwavidya Pratishthanam (SGVP) participate in the Janoi or ‘sacred thread’ changing ceremony in Ahmedabad on Aug. 20, 2013. (Photo: AFP)

By N. Leo Samuel

Published: February 01, 2023 12:56 PM GMT

In the past eight years during which the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been in power, the Supreme Court has mostly supported the government policies, leaving political observers worried and perplexed about the political and social road map India is traversing.

They point to various legal victories the ruling party scored in India’s highest court, often the final arbitration point for vexatious and long-drawn legal cases, which have tremendous implications in a complex country like India.

One such case that hits Christians in India coming from Dalit backgrounds was a legal challenge to the government denying them welfare benefits meant for all Dalit people, the socially poor across India.

Dalit people among Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs get these benefits, but not Christians and Muslims because, according to the government, their religions do not follow caste.

After some five decades of legal wrangling, and several commissions asserting that Dalit people among Christians and Muslims deserve these benefits because conversions failed to change their social status, India’s Supreme Court sought the government’s view on the subject last year.

The government asked for more time to study the pleas of Dalit Christians and Muslims and appointed another commission last October. Many Christians and Muslims believe the move aims to delay extending the benefits to Christians and Muslims.

In another case decided in November last year, the Supreme Court approved the government’s amendment to the Indian constitution extending special welfare benefits to the economically poor among upper castes. 

This verdict needs to be studied in detail to understand the social path on which contemporary India is headed. The decision has overturned the decades-old concept of social justice in India, where more than 90 percent population is considered socially backward and is yet to enjoy the benefits of a modern, growing economy.

The government had passed the amendment in January 2019 ahead of the general elections which the BJP won with a landslide, giving Modi a second term. The amendment reserved 10 percent seats in educational institutions and government jobs for “economically weaker sections” among the upper castes.

The Supreme Court through a split verdict of 3:2, in which the then Chief Justice U.U. Lalit was a minority and approved the amendment giving a new twist to the understanding of social justice. Lalit did not object to the special reservation. He just did not agree with the majority judges over excluding the poor from the socially backward caste groups drawing its benefits.

A batch of petitioners had challenged the amendment arguing that the “economic criteria cannot be a basis for granting reservation” and giving these to the upper castes “is a fraud on the constitution and amounted to stabbing its heart.”

They argued that the constitution envisaged reservation not only as a social justice measure but also as a tool to bring the socially poor, who were suppressed for centuries, to the social mainstream.

Indian constitution introduced reservation policy as the country’s “affirmative action” aimed at building a new India of equality and justice. Shashi Tharoor, a member of the Indian parliament and noted author termed such reservation as “positive discrimination” in his book, From Midnight to Millennium.


India’s new path to social equality disregards justice – UCA News

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