Article 15 of the Constitution of India
Explanation For the purposes of this article and article 16, “economically weaker sections” shall be such as may be notified by the State from time to time on the basis of family income and other indicators of economic disadvantage.
Article 15 provides for a particular application of the general principle embodied under Article 14. The guarantee under Article 15 is available to citizens only. The state cannot discriminate only on the above mentioned grounds but can discriminate on grounds other than these. The rights under 15 (2) are not only available against a State but also against other citizens.
Article 15 (1) states that no citizen shall be discriminated only on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them. But there are special considerations for women and children, SC/ST, OBC. Exceptions for these categories are mentioned in Clause (2) and (3) of Article 15.
Article 15 (2) is a specific application of the general prohibition contained in Article 15 (1). While Clause (1) prohibits discrimination by the State; clause (2) prohibits both the State and private individuals from making any discrimination.
Women and children require special treatment on account of their very nature and therefore Article 15 (3) empowers the State to make special provisions for women and children. The reason is that “women’s physical structure and the performance of maternal functions place her at a disadvantage in the struggle for subsistence and her physical well-being. Thus, under Article 42, women workers can be given special maternity relief and a law to this effect will not infringe Article 15 (1). Also, if an educational institution is established by the State exclusively for women or if reservation of seats is made for women in a college, it does not offend Article 15 (1).
Article 15 Clause (4) is another exception to clause (1) and (2) of Article 15. Article 15(4) has been inserted by the constitution ( first amendment ) Act, 1951. It was added by the Constitution (1st Amendment) Act, 1951, as a result of the decision in State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan1). The provision made in clause (4) is only an enabling provision and does not impose any obligation on the State to take any special action under it. It merely confers discretion to act if necessary by way of making special provision for backward classes. A writ cannot be issued to the State to make reservation. The basic principle underlying this clause is that a preferential treatment can be given validly where socially and educationally backward classes need it.
Thus under Article 15 (4), two things are to be determined
Constitution nowhere defines ‘backward classes’. Article 340, however, empowers the President to appoint a Commission to investigate conditions of socially and educationally backward classes. On the basis of the report of the Commission the president may specify who are to be considered as ‘Backward classes’.
In Balaji v. State of Mysore2), it was held that ‘backward’ and ‘more backward’ classification is not bad.
In the historic Mandal Commission Case3) the Supreme Court by 6-3 majority has held that the sub-classification of backward classes into backward into more backward and backward classes for the purpose of Article 16(4) can be done. But as result of sub-classification, the reservation cannot exceed more than 50 percent.
Creamy layer must be excluded from the backward classes.
High caste girl marrying a male of Scheduled tribe is not entitled to reservation benefit under Clause (4) of Article 15. Also, a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe candidate is entitled to reservation benefit only in the State of his origin and not in other State where he migrates to.
The children of the following different categories of people belong to ‘creamy layer’ among OBCs and thus will not get the quota benefit :
In order to serve the educationally and socially backward classes, the State asked the private education institutions also to reserve seats for the backward classes. Private institutions objected to it, stating it would amount to violation of right under Article 19 (1) (g). The Parliament, by amending the Constitution in 2005, added Clause (5) to Article 15. According to this, it is mandatory to reserve seats for backward classes also even in private institutions whether aided or unaided, by the State. The only exception is educational institutions run by minority communities. A law was enacted in this effect called Central Educational Institutions Reservation in Admission Act, 2006. This Act was challenged in the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court upheld the validity of this law.
Landmark cases on Clause (5)
Article 15 (6) was added by the 103rd constitutional amendment 2018 to provide reservations to economically weaker sections for admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether
unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions referred to in clause (1) of Article 30. The amendment aims to provide reservation to those who do not fall in 15(5) and 15(4). So those who are already covered under caste reservation cannot make use of economic reservation. The eligibility criteria laid down in this regard is as follows: