Kaka Kalelkar

Draft Article 10

The proceedings of the Constituent Assembly on draft Article (10) disclose a persistent and strident demand from certain sections of the society for providing reservations in their favour in the matter of public employment. While speaking on the draft Article 10(3) [corresponding to Article 16(4)] Dr. Ambedkar had stated, “then we have quite a massive opinion which insists that although theoretically it is good to have the principle that there shall be equality of opportunity, there must at the same time be a provision made for the entry of certain communities which have so far been outside the administration.”

Backward Class Commission 1953

It was this demand which was mainly responsible for the incorporation of Clause (4) in Article 16. As matter of fact, in some of the southern States, reservations in favour of O.B.Cs. were in vogue since quite a number of years prior to the Constitution. There was a demand for similar reservations at the center. In response to this demand and also in realisation of its obligation to provide for such reservations in favour of backward sections of the society, the Central Government appointed a Backward Class Commission under Article 340 of the Constitution on January 29, 1953.


The Commission, popularly known as Kaka Kalelkar Commission, was required “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 difficulties and to improve their conditions”.

The Commission submitted its report on March 30, 1955. According to it, the relevant factors to consider while classifying backward classes would be their traditional occupation and profession, the percentage of literacy or the general educational advancement made by them; the estimated population of the community and the distribution of the various communities throughout the state or their concentration in certain areas. The Commission was also of the opinion that the social position which a community occupies in the caste hierarchy would also have to be considered as well as its representation in Government service or in the Industrial sphere.

Report of the Commission

According to the Commission, the causes of educational backwardness amongst the educationally and backward communities were,

(i) traditional apathy for education on account of social and environmental conditions or occupational handicaps:

(ii) poverty and lack of educational institutions in rural areas and

(iii) living in inaccessible areas.

The Chairman of the commission, Kaka Kalelkar, however, had second thoughts after signing the report. In the enclosing letter addressed to the President he virtually pleaded for the rejection of the report on the ground that the reservations and other remedies recommended on the basis of caste would not be in the interest of society and country. He opined that the principle of caste should be eschewed altogether. Then alone, he said, would it be possible to help the extremely poor and deserving members of all the communities. At the same time, he added, preference ought to be given to those who come from traditionally neglected social classes.

Consideration of Report by Central Government

The report made by the Commission was considered by the Central Government, which apparently was not satisfied with the approach adopted by the Commission in determining the criteria for identifying the backward classes under Article 15(4). The Memorandum of action appended to the Report of the Commission while placing it on the table of the Parliament [as required by Clause (3) of Article 340] on September 3, 1956, pointed out that the caste system is the greatest hindrance in the way of our progress to egalitarian society and that in such a situation recognition of certain specified castes as backward may serve to maintain and perpetuate the existing distinctions on the basis of caste.

The Memorandum also found fault with certain tests adopted by the Commission for identifying the backward classes. It expressed the opinion that a more systematic and elaborate basis has to be evolved for identifying backward classes. Be that as it may, the Report was never discussed by the Parliament.

Consequences of the Report

No meaningful action was taken after 1956 either for constituting another Commission or for evolving a better criteria. Ultimately, on August 14, 1961, the Central Government wrote to all the State Governments stating inter alia that “while the State Governments have the discretion to choose their own criteria for defining backwardness, in the view of the Government of India it would be better to apply economic tests than to go by caste.”

The letter stated further, rather inexplicably, that “even if the Central Government were to specify under Article 338(3) certain groups of people as belonging to ‘other backward classes’, it will still be open to every State Government to draw up its own lists for the purposes of Articles 15 and 16. As, therefore, the State Governments may adhere to their own lists, any All-India list drawn up by the Central Government would have no practical utility.”

Various State Governments thereupon appointed Commissions for identifying backward classes and issued orders identifying the socially and educationally backward classes and reserving certain percentage of posts in their favour. So far as the Central services are concerned, no reservations were ever made in favour of other backward classes though made in favour of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.