Prof G Mohan Gopal, the former vice-chancellor of the National Law School of India in Bengaluru, said on Saturday, 17 September, that the fight against reservations for economically weaker sections of society was ultimately a fight for the representation of minorities.
His observations were made at a panel discussion during Dakshin Dialogues 2022, an event organised by South First in Hyderabad. The panel discussion was on the topic “Building consensus on federalism and the role of the judiciary”.
The other panellists for the discussion were the retired Supreme Court judge Justice J Chelameswar, Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, and former Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac. The discussion was moderated by veteran journalist Bala Murali Krishna.
‘Federalism and reservation are both about representation’
In the panel discussion, Gopal — who worked as the director of the National Judicial Academy of the Supreme Court from 2006 to 2011 — opined that federalism and reservation were both about representation.
“If you look at constitutional debates all who spoke about dominant privileged communities saw reservation as a tool for economic upliftment and alleviating backwardness, but everyone who spoke of marginalised sections and minorities saw reservation as a tool of representation, for a share of power, for a voice in government as a tool of swaraj,” he said.
The professor, who founded the National Court Management Systems Committee of the Supreme Court of India in 2012 and was its chair till 2019, also opposed centralisation, and said federalism was also a tool of swaraj.
Recounting BR Ambedkar’s initial position on federalism, Gopal said “Progressive leaders including Ambedkar initially thought that, similar to the US, they could use a strong Union to fight against the regressive forces at the local level like the caste system and so on. But today, actually a lot of the regression has come to the national level and the progressive forces have come to the state level.”
Gopal, who is arguing the case against EWS in the Supreme Court, said this was ultimately a fight for the representation of minorities, and it was brought in order to continue the power of the oligarchy and get 10 percent for the oligarchy.
He also alleged that the EWS was being misrepresented. “If you really look closer, they are not economic reservations at all. They are reservations for socially and educationally forward classes who have financial incapacity,” he stated.
Gopal said the title was “Economically Weaker Section”, but the criterion was not economic weakness, but financial incapacity — income, ownership of land and residence — even if the financial incapacity was on account of moral hazards such as losses through gambling.
According to him, the EWS category benefits the “not-so-economically weaker sections of the upper castes”.
He added that if the Supreme Court endorses the amendment that creates a reservation for not-so-economically weaker sections of the forward class then it is a betrayal of the Constitution and the destruction of its spirit.
Link to the livestream of the inaugural Dakshin Dialogues event held by South First: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-AEKnYA704
Link to all the videos from the event: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbZMvW807JWuNBOcYK5c91w/videos
Link to the news reports from the event: https://www.thesouthfirst.com/category/dakshin-dialogues/