Article 340 of Indian Constitution: Commission for Backward Classes Investigation

Article 340 of Indian Constitution

Article 340 of the Indian Constitution empowers the President to appoint a commission to investigate the conditions and difficulties of backward classes. This provision underscores the nation’s commitment to identifying and addressing the socio-economic challenges faced by these groups, thereby promoting equitable social justice and inclusion.

Original Text of Article 340 of Indian Constitution

  • The President may by order appoint a Commission consisting of such persons as he thinks fit to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India and the difficulties under which they labour and to make recommendations as to the steps that should be taken by the Union or any State to remove such difficulties and to improve their condition and as to the grants that should be made for the purpose by the Union or any State and the conditions subject to which such grants should be made, and the order appointing such Commission shall define the procedure to be followed by the Commission.
  • A Commission so appointed shall investigate the matters referred to them and present to the President a report setting out the facts as found by them and making such recommendations as they think proper.
  • The President shall cause a copy of the report so presented together with a memorandum explaining the action taken thereon to be laid before each House of Parliament.

Explanation of Article 340 of Indian Constitution:

Article 340 of Indian Constitution allows the President (i.e. the central Government) to constitute a commission to investigate the condition of backward classes within the territories of India.

The measure of Backwardness:

Clause 1 hints at two types of backwardness:

  1. Socially Backward Classes
  2. Educationally Backward Classes

The constitution further assumes that such backwardness creates difficulties in their labour.

Thus, the Commission for the backward classes will investigate and recommend the following matters:

  1. Difficulties under which the backward classes labour and make recommendations regarding the steps that should be taken by the Union or State governments to remove such difficulties and improve their conditions.
  2. The grants (i.e. government programs) that should made by the Union or State governments to improve their conditions.

The procedure followed by such a commission:

The Presidential order appointing such a Commission will also define the procedure to be followed by the Commission, typically known as the “Terms of Reference” of the Commission.

Then, the investigation will be done under these terms, and the report will be submitted to the president along with the results of the investigation and the recommendations made by them.

Then, the report is laid before both houses of the Parliament, along with the memorandum stating the action taken on the report.

Reservations in India

Article 16 of Indian Constitution allows the Government to provide for the reservation for the backward classes like Scheduled castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other backward classes.

If backward classes are to be given reservation, the investigation into the condition of backward classes in this matter is done through the provisions of Article 340.

Under these provisions, the Government has constituted a commission several times.

1. Kaka Kelkar Commission 1953 (1st Backward Classes Commission):

The Commission was appointed to decide the criterion on the basis of which socially and educationally backward classes could be identified and to make suggestions that should be taken by the Union or any state government.

The following are the criteria formulated by the Commission for the socially and educationally backward classes (SEBC):

  • Low social heirarchical position in the traditional Hindu society.
  • Lack of general educational advancement among the significant sections of a caste.
  • Inadequate representation in the field of commerce, trade and industry.

No action was taken on the report.

2. Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Commission (known as the Mandal Commission), 1979

Under Article 340 of the constitution, the President appointed the Mandal Commission under the chairmanship of Bindeshwari Prasad Mandal in 1979, having two aims:

  1. To investigate the condition of educationally, socially, and backward classes and
  2. To suggest the criteria for defining such classes and measures that should be taken for the advancement of the socially and educationally backwards classes.

Thus, it was designed to examine the desirability for the reservation of posts in favour of backward classes of people who are not adequately represented in public services.

The Commission submitted its report in 1980, stating that:

  1. Almost 52% of the population belonged to other Backward classes.
  2. It proposed a 27% reservation for them in government jobs and educational institutions.

In 1990, the Mandal commission’s recommendations were implemented. In 1991, then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao’s Government made a provision for 10% reservation for economically weaker sections, taking the total reservation in India to around 60%.

3. Indra Sawhney V/S Union of India, 1992

The above-mentioned reservation policy was challenged in the Supreme Court. The nine-judge constitutional bench gave a landmark Judgment:

  1. It struck down the provision of 10% reservation that was provided for economically weaker sections and ruled that a backward class of people cannot be identified only on the basis of economic criteria. The Indian constitution defined social and educational backwardness only.
  2. The apex court upheld the validity of the 27% reservation for other backward-class commissions, and the concept of the creamy layer is excluded.
  3. The Supreme Court held that “once backwards, always backwards is not acceptable, and in any case, the creamy layer has no place in the reservation system”.
  4. The Supreme Court capped reservations up to 50%, i.e., the total proportion of reservations (including SC, ST, and OBCs) had to be below 50% under articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the constitution.

4. Sub-Categorisation of the other backward class commission (Popularly known as Rohini Commission), 2017:

The four-member Commission was headed by Justice G Rohini (former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court), who was appointed in October 2017 under the provisions of Article 340. Its mandate, according to its term of reference, was to:

  1. Address the anomalies in the reservation: To examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities that are included in the central list. For instance, some OBCs have dominant representation in the reservation quota.
  2. To identify castes, communities or synonyms in the central list of OBCs and classify them into their sub-categories. It was tasked to find out the scientific approach for the sub-categorisation within such OBCs.
  3. To study the different entries in the central list of OBCs and recommend corrections if there is any repetition, ambiguities, inconsistencies and errors of spelling or transcription.

Its report was submitted in August 2023, and it suggested:

  1. To sub-categories 2600 castes under OBCs.
  2. Historically, crowded-out caste groups should be given a larger share of the 27% reservation.
  3. The dominant castes having access to most benefits must be given the smallest share.

However, several states have demanded separate and independent caste-based surveys in their independent Jurisdiction. Most notably, the Bihar Government has conducted its own survey.

List of Amendments in Article 340 of Indian Constitution:

Article 340 of Indian Constitution has never been amended.

For further reference:

Read the Constitution of India

Read the National Commission for the backward classes article.

Other Related Links:

Indian Constitution: All Articles and schedules Article 1 of Indian Constitution
Article 2 of Indian Constitution Article 3 of Indian Constitution
Article 4 of indian Constitution Article 5 of Indian Constitution
Fundamental Rights DPSP
Fundamental Duties Amendments of the Indian Constitution
Article 339 of Indian Constitution Article 341 of Indian Constitution

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