Anglo-Indian seats in LS: HC says quota can’t go on forever, seeks Centre’s stand on plea

Observing that the provision for representation of the Anglo-Indian community by nomination in Lok Sabha had been introduced to give an assurance to the community’s members that they will be protected and heard when they stay back, the Delhi High Court on Friday asked the Centre to file its submissions in response to a petition seeking restoration of Anglo-Indian representation by nomination in Parliament.

The court observed that 70-80 years since then, the objective stands achieved.

The court asked the government to inform it about the rationale behind the move to reserve two seats in Lok Sabha.

The court, in its oral observations, said that the community has merged within the Indian population with time and listed the matter for preliminary hearing on November 18.

“The point is that these reservations.… The constitutional scheme itself is that they are for a limited period of time. It cannot go on in perpetuity,” the division bench of acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla said. “If we are to continue with these kinds of provisions, then where is the integration happening in the society?”

“There is no bar against any Anglo-Indian from intertwining with the whole community and emerging as a leader,” it said.

The court was hearing a petition challenging the Constitutional (One Hundred and Fourth Amendment) Act, 2019. The amendment removed the nomination-based representation of the Anglo-Indian community in Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies.

The plea also seeks constitution of a high-powered committee of experts, headed by a retired Supreme Court judge or a former High Court Chief Justice, for “comprehensive study de novo on the accurate number/data with respect to the population of the Anglo-Indian community”.

Advocate Kuriakose Varghese, representing the petitioner — the Federation of Anglo-Indian Association of India — argued that one particular community cannot be singled out because it is a “microscopic minority”. There has to be a “judicious approach” while making the decision, he said.


How provision of reservation in legislature was granted

Provision for nomination of two Anglo-Indians to Lok Sabha was made under Article 331 of the Constitution. The idea of such nominations is traced to Frank Anthony, who headed the All-India Anglo-Indian Association. Article 331 was added in the Constitution following his suggestion to Jawaharlal Nehru. Article 333 deals with representation of the community in Legislative Assemblies.

“The Constitution has to keep in mind the safeguards for the weakest people,” Varghese argued.

He said the number of Anglo-Indian community members is not accurately reflected in the 2011 Census, on which the then Law Minister relied while tabling the amendment Bill in Parliament.

In its petition, the Association said the amendment “without any study or basis, arbitrarily and unfairly” removed the process of nomination. The consequence, it argued, would be “permanent removal” of the entire community from effective representational democracy for the first time since 1950.

“The Impugned Amendment Act arbitrarily breaches the constitutional promise to a ‘minority within a minority’ and could virtually become the trigger for systematic cultural-political annihilation of the Anglo-Indian community in the short to medium term,” the petition stated.

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, opposing the issuance of notice on the petition, said the amendment in law is based on the Census, which recorded only 296 Anglo-Indians in India. Sharma argued that the case of Anglo-Indians cannot be compared with Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) communities.

“They (Anglo-Indians) are all urbanised. Where is the backwardness that they compare themselves to the SC/ST,” Sharma submitted. He said that in the case of SC/ST communities, there is “social backwardness, stigmatic backwardness”, and because of that the period of reservation for them was extended.

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