Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New Book on Parliamentary Debates on Reservations by Rajeev Dhavan

I think this guest post by Madhav Khosla will be of general interest:

Last week, Rupa released a new book by Rajeev Dhavan titled "Reserved! How Parliament Debated Reservations 1995-2007". Although I have not had time to read the entire book, a preliminary reading suggests that Dr. Dhavan's new book seems to be a much needed addition to the affirmative action discourse in India by examining parliamentary debates in the area of reservations. It also proves to be a very useful addition to emerging literature on the failure of Indian's representative institutions. Dr. Dhavan tracks the affirmative action developments in India beginning with the promotion amendments of 1995, and all the way till the OBC verdict (AK Thakur). He examines the tussle between Parliament and the Supreme Court between 1995-2007, and the five constitutional amendments during this period that reversed key decisions of the Apex Court. Dr. Dhavan also devotes considerable time to the problems that have arisen in beneficiary identification, a critical issue in framing effective affirmative action policies. On a personal note, he explains the reasons for his own shift in stance from arguing for the OBC's in the Mandal cases to against even the SC/ST's in a string of latter cases. Like his other works, the book appears to be comprehensively referenced and outstandingly researched. Fortunately, unlike some of his other works, the book has been published by Rupa and should thus be easily accessible. During arguments in the AK Thakur case, Dr. Dhavan contended that Parliament had not sufficiently considered the issue of OBC reservation. The Supreme Court rejected the argument, stating that it must presume due consideration on behalf of Parliament. Dr. Dhavan, it seems, has now taken his argument to a larger audience. The response should be interesting.
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