Retired Supreme Court Justice J Chelameswar said on Wednesday that the text of the Constitution only enables lawmakers to make reservations for socially and educationally backward segments of the society, and not the economically weaker sections (EWS).
He was responding to a question asked by a student at IIT-Bombay, where he delivered the first Ambedkar Memorial Lecture, titled ‘Seven Decades of the Constitution’, organised by the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle.
“The text of the Constitution only enables the Parliament or the Legislative Assembly to make reservations for socially and educationally backward segments of society not economically weaker sections. To what extent the current programme will be sustained in court, I do not know and it is to be seen. I can only say that the text of the Constitution does not provide for it,” Justice Chelameswar said.
The Parliament had earlier this month passed the 124th Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, providing 10 per cent reservation in jobs and education for the EWS in the general category. A petition has been filed before the Supreme Court challenging the Bill.
Chelameswar was also asked about the appointment of judges to government posts after retirement. “It was my personal choice (to refuse any government post after retirement). The difficulty is that lots of laws stipulate the requirement of retired judges or sitting judges. You cannot then say no judge can be appointed,” he said.
During his hour-long speech, Chelameswar spoke about the safeguards to the democracy made in the Constitution, including appointment of electoral representatives, but said that there have been violations.
He recalled an incident, where he was attending a small gathering along with 50 to 60 others.
“At the gathering, each person present had a position of importance in the governance of the country. Mr Brahma (Hari Shankar Brahma), a former election commissioner of the country, a man who had first-hand knowledge of the electoral process, said that Rs 50 crore is spent to become a MP in the country. It is too serious a matter. Someone who spends that much, will work to recover the money and not to implement the Constitution,” Chelameswar said. Addressing to students, Chelameswar said that they should be aware of what is happening in the country. He added that they should take active interest and when things go wrong, they should raise their voice, including through of democratic protests.
Chelameswar also spoke about the need for judicial reforms and how academic discussion of any judgment, including pointing out what is wrong in it, does not amount to contempt.