ThePrint Dalit History Month

After K.G. Balakrishnan’s retirement in May 2010, no Dalit judge has been elevated to apex court; not even a single Dalit chief justice in 24 high courts.

New Delhi: Even as the country-wide Dalit protests against the Supreme Court order on the SC/ST Act gather momentum, the representation of scheduled castes in the country’s higher judiciary remains abysmally low with no Dalit judge currently serving in the top court.

In fact, in the past eight years, no judge from SC communities has been elevated to the Supreme Court. Even in the 24 high courts across the country, there is not a single Dalit judge serving as chief justice.

The only Dalit judge to have served as CJI is K.G. Balakrishnan, who retired on 11 May 2010. After his retirement, no Dalit judge has been elevated to the apex court.

“Provided a candidate is qualified, the CJ of the high court concerned should make an endeavour to uphold the social justice principle and appoint them,” Balakrishnan told ThePrint.

Even as he argued that he does not support the demands for reservations in higher judiciary, he said there must be no bias in appointing Dalit judges provided they are good candidates.

While the law ministry has written to the Chief Justice of India on several occasions to recommend names of Dalit judges for the Supreme Court, there has been no movement in this regard. There are no caste reservations in higher judicial appointments as of now.

Although law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had told Parliament last year that his ministry had written to the CJI to take voluntary measures to increase the representation of judges from all sections, the government has, however, not supported the demands for reservations for SCs, STs, other backward classes and minorities in higher judiciary.

While it is not explicitly stated anywhere that there can be no reservation in the higher judiciary, as per convention, it is believed that the independence of the apex court may come into question if the principle of seniority in appointments is compromised, explains Anurag Bhaskar, a law graduate from Dr Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow, and who is set to go to Harvard Law School.

“Then, there is also this argument of merit and quality that is given,” he added.

However, this often leads to “a sense of alienation among Dalits that a vital organ of the state does not represent us,” he said.

Speaking of the 20 March Supreme Court order on the atrocities act, Bhaskar said, “The message is that because there is no representation, the perspective of Dalits is not reaching the higher judiciary.”

While Balakrishnan refused to comment directly on the SC order, he said, “There are already sufficient protections in the CrPC to counter wrongful arrests.”

In its order, the apex court had said that public servants can’t be prosecuted under the SC/ST Act without the approval of the appointing authority. In case of private citizens too, arrests should be made only after an inquiry under the law, the court said.

ThePrint is publishing articles on Dalit issues as part of Dalit History Month.

Read more: Dalit history threatens the powerful. That is why they want to erase, destroy and jail it

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  1. For Gods sake, what has the presence or absence of a Dalit in the top echelons of the judiciary or any other apex body got to do with “social justice”?

    Perform or Perish principle must be applied. Merit not caste, religion or dynastic lineage.

    • “TALENT and MERIT rhetorics”… 1st one should know the CONSTITUTION and LAW before commenting… LAW and JUSTICE works on the premise…”EQUALS SHOULD BE TREATED EQUALLY, AND UNEQUALS SHOULD BE TREATED UNEQUALLY”
      1. what ur enjoying today is not because you are talented, but because you BOUGHT the talent by going to a better school, college, coaching center with top teachers (ofcourse top fees)… … “Socially, Economically and Politically you are in UNEQUAL strata when compared to an underprivileged”. Its like.. running race circles, where the candidate in the outer circle (unprevileged) will be placed ahead of the candidate in the inner circle (preveleged), to make the distance equal for both of them.

      2 . When top higher education seats or jobs (MBBS, MD, MBA etc) are sold under management quota, to rich people with very low marks you don’t lament about the TALENT; MERIT; PERFORM or PERISH rhetoric… but when an unprivileged (either social, economical or political) candidate gets a seat in higher education or IAS post with 1 to 20 marks difference you lament about the TALENT, MERIT Bla bla bla !!!
      You should understand why 80 % of higher bureaucracy, business and politics are occupied by uppercastes whose population is very low!! On the contrary the 80% populated SC, ST and BCs are faintly represented in such higher positions… IT’S NOT BECAUSE UPPERCASTES ARE BORN WITH TALENT; AND LOWER CASTES ARE BORN WITHOUT ANY TALENT. All are born equally…. But for years together, working class people (who actually contribute to GDP) were suppressed, oppressed and condemned to pennury… not even allowed to study. Hence the POSITIVE DISCREMINATION to uplift them is JUSTIFED (Supreme Court)… So Pls try to understand positively… Thank you bro…

      • Same old, same old argument sir. I know that communities which have faced injustices and discriminations for reasons beyond their control need to be compensated for that. I also understand your point when you say that the richer members of the society may often find a shortcut to getting admissions in the higher institutions, with underhand techniques. But therein lies the counter-point. You confuse social divisions with financial divisions, sir, for the lack of better terms. It is the rich who may or may not ‘cheat’ their way through. Understand that rich or privileged is not synonymous with general category, nor is poor or unprivileged synonymous with SC/ST/OBC anymore. A partiality towards EWS is completely justified. Financial aids can be provided for them. No one will ever argue. But just the fact that you belong to a certain social community, not based on your ability to qualify for the said posts and positions, does not justify a demand for reservation. Nothing does, especially in institutions like courts of law, armies, among others.
        Secondly, I am very sure that institutions like the Supreme Court of India do not select candidates on the basis of their caste. They oversee the implementation of laws in land of 1.21 billion people, I believe they do not have the luxury to be fussy about their selections. We need people who are qualified enough to be there, irrespective of social and financial status. Thank you, sir, and apologies if I offend you in any manner.

    • How dalit student get merit(even though some got)all procipirity and wealth and lands under higher communities.no basic schooling.child nutrition.hiscomlted his law degree or other professional degrees from local schoola not from Delhi public schools.now you tell both can run in same track…

  2. Just fed up of hypocritical and pussillanimous think of such petty journalists, Why don’t you publish an article when girl ranked 99 all India did not get an opportunity to be an IAS officer but a less talented one does get it

    • Just fed up answering the immature FAQs by people like you… “TALENT and MERIT rhetorics”… 1st you should know the CONSTITUTION and LAW… Which works on the premise…”EQUALS SHOULD BE TREATED EQUALLY, AND UNEQUALS SHOULD BE TREATED UNEQUALLY”
      1. what ur enjoying today is not because you are talented but because you BOUGHT the talent by going to a better school, college, coaching center with top teachers (ofcourse top fees)… … “Socially, Economically and Politically you are in UNEQUAL when compared to an underprivileged”. Its like a running race circles, where the candidate in the outer circle will be placed ahead of the candidate in the inner circle.

      2 . When top higher education seats (MBBS etc) are sold under management quota, to rich people with with very low marks you don’t lament about the TALENT but when an unprivileged (either social, economical or political) candidate gets a seat in higher education or IAS post with 1 to 20 marks difference you lament about the TALENT and MERIT !!! You should understand why 80 % of higher bureaucracy, business and politics are occupied by uppercastes whoes population is very low!! On the contrary the 80% populated SC, ST and BCs are faintly represented in such higher positions… IT’S NOT BECAUSE UPPERCASTES ARE BORN WITH TALENT; AND LOWER CASTES ARE BORN WITHOUT ANY TALENT. All are born equally. Pls try to understand positively… Thank you bro…

      • Really very good explanation.i likeyour argument.this people wants again enjoy the slavery of undercastes in our country

  3. what a disgusting article. no wonder we call them presstitute .. these peoples are not journalist, they are cancer to democracy.

  4. I don’t think the absence of a Dalit CJ in the high courts or as a judge in the apex court is due to prejudice. Quite simply, a suitable candidate may not have been available. That in a sense is also a reflection on how affirmative action is not working, save to create a small elite within the community, now in its third generation. Meaning no disrespect, but Justice Balakrishnan was not a CJI who left behind his footsteps in the sands of time.

  5. It is surprising that even after several decades of Independence the nation is being forced to think in terms of Castes. Why cannot we come out of this mind-set and think in terms of development of the entire nation and every citizen of the country? This way the country will remain backward forever and politicians will go on taking advantages.

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