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Judicial discourse on India's affirmative action policies : the challenge and potential of sub-classification

This thesis is primarily concerned with the distribution of quotas in higher education and public employment within identified beneficiary groups. In a system of quotas based on preferential treatment of groups, the question about which members of the group must benefit over others is a crucial one. One of the main themes in the thesis is to critically analyse the judicial understanding about the nature of these groups. The homogeneity (in backwardness) that is attached to beneficiary groups in differing degrees is challenged in the thesis using the examples of Scheduled Castes and Muslims within the Other Backward Classes category. The differences within beneficiary groups have great significance for the fairness of India’s reservation policies. By ignoring internal differences, the most marginalised groups are left behind in terms of accessing the benefits of reservations. I have argued that any attempt to address the issue of sub-classification must begin by recognising multiple axis of marginalisation within the framework of intersectionality. This lack of sufficient engagement with the issue of sub-classification highlights the failure of the Supreme Court of India to develop a normative framework within which reservations might be viewed. This lack of normative clarity informs spheres of reservations like higher education and public employment along with according homogenous treatment to beneficiary groups internally. The Supreme Court has viewed reservations in higher education and public employment as essentially performing the same function. I have argued that reservations in these spheres perform different functions and the resulting obligations on the state in terms of constitutional justifications must also differ. While the demands for sub-classification present an opportunity to make distribution of reservations fairer, it also exposes the limitation of reservations as a tool of social transformation.
Date January 2013
CreatorsSurendranath, Anup
ContributorsFredman, Sandra
PublisherUniversity of Oxford
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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