NATIONAL

Constitution Bench to hear plea against reserved constituencies

New Delhi Sept. 6. A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will hear a writ petition questioning the continuance of reservation for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha and State Assembly constituencies across the country.

A Bench comprising the Chief Justice, V.N. Khare, and Justice S.B. Sinha referred the issue to a Constitution Bench as important questions of law had been raised in the petition filed in 2000 after the passing of the 79th Constitution Amendment Act, 1999 to continue reservation for SC/STs till 2010.

The petitioners, Mirza Rafiullah Baig and two others submitted that though they were registered voters in their Lok Sabha constituency — Tonk, they were unable to contest the elections as this seat was reserved for the Scheduled Castes.

They noted that the population of the constituency as per the 1991 census was 9,75,006 of which the SC population was 1,96,936. Thus 7,78,070 people, i.e. 79.80 per cent of the population in the constituency were deprived of the chance to contest the polls from 1967 as it was reserved for SCs.

They said that they had expected this malady to end in 2000 and that they could contest the polls but their hopes were belied as the amendment extended the period of reservation by another 10 years, up to January 25, 2010.They submitted that Article 334 of the Constitution originally envisaged that reservation would be applicable to SC/STs for 10 years and this was extended from time to time. As a result, 120 out of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha and 1,080 out of the 4,091 seats in State Assemblies were reserved for SC/STs.They were of the view that the present policy of reservation resulted in deprivation and it should not be allowed to continue. The choice of the candidate and the right to contest elections were inherent in the principle of adult suffrage and this right was infringed because of the amendment Act continuing the reservation for 10 more years.They prayed for a declaration that the 79th Amendment was unconstitutional and against the basic structure of the Constitution and a direction to declare all the notifications issued under the Representation of the People Act providing or permitting reservation of seats for SC/STs in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies as unconstitutional.

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