Supreme Court Okays 10% EWS Quota in Jobs, Education With 3:2 Majority
SC ruled 3:2 in favour of reservations for the poor in the general category with CJI UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat dissenting.
The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the constitutional validity of the Centre's 10 per cent quota in jobs and education for the economically weaker section of society. The Constitution Bench ruled 3:2 in favour of the EWS Quota with Chief Justice UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat dissenting.
The top court dealt with three major points of law: Whether the 103rd Constitution Amendment breached the basic structure by permitting the State to make special provisions, including reservation, based on economic criteria; if the amendment violated provisions by permitting the State to make special provisions in relation to admission to private unaided institutions; and if the amendment could exclude the Socially Economic Backward Classes (SEBCs)/Other Backward Classes (OBCs)/(Scheduled Class( SCs)/Scheduled Tribes(STs) from the scope of EWS reservation?
The Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) UU Lalit along with Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, S Ravindra Bhat, Bela M Trivedi and JB Pardiwala pronounced the verdict. Four different opinions were given on this issue.
BOOMS recaps the same.
Reservation an instrument of affirmative action: Justice Dinesh Maheshwari
Justice Dinesh Maheshwari who went first, observed that reservation is an instrument of affirmative action to ensure an all-inclusive march towards the goal of an egalitarian society. The EWS Quota is a means of inclusion of any class or section so disadvantaged.
In this background, the reservation on an economic basis does not violate the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution of India, Justice Maheshwari said.
Exclusion of classes does not violate equality: Justice Bela Trivedi
Justice Bela Trivedi concurred with Justice Maheshwari, though she penned her own opinion on this matter. The legislature understands the needs of people and it is aware of the economic exclusion of the people from reservations, I concur with Justice Maheshwari, she said.
"The 103rd Constitutional Amendment make special provisions for classes other than the Scheduled Class (SC)/Scheduled Tribes (ST) and should be treated as affirmative action by the parliament. It cannot be said to be unreasonable classification," Justice Trivedi said.
The EWS cannot be treated at par with citizens of the general category. Such a classification does not violate the equality code, she added.
Before parting Justice Trivedi observed that the age-old caste system in India led to the introduction of reservations so that SC/ST get a level playing field. At end of 75 years, we need to take a re-look at reservations in general in the spirit of transformative constitutionalism and larger interests of society, Justice Trivedi said.
EWS Quota not an end but a means for social and economic justice: Justice Pardiwala
Justice JB Pardiwala concurred with Justices Maheshwari and Trivedi. "While concurring and upholding the 103rd amendment, I have thought it fit to observe 'Reservation is not an end, it is means, it should not be allowed to become a vested interest'," Justice Pardiwala said.
"The ones who have moved ahead should be removed from backward classes so that the ones in need can be helped. The ways to determine backward classes need to be re-look so that they are relevant in today's time. Reservation should not continue for an indefinite time so that it becomes a vested interest," Justice Pardiwala said.
EWS Quota undermines the fabric of social justice and basic structure: CJI UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat
Justice S Ravindra Bhat dissented and struck down the 103rd Amendment which carved out a 10 percent quota for the economically weaker section (EWS) of the society. Chief Justice UU Lalit did not pen his individual opinion and concurred with Justice Bhat's opinion in its entirety.
Justice Bhat observed that though the amendment was valid on grounds of economic inequality, its exclusion on basis of class—SC/ST was violative. "Our constitution does not permit exclusion and this amendment undermines the fabric of social justice and thereby the basic structure, Justice Bhat said. This amendment is deluding us to believe that those getting social and backward class benefits are somehow better placed," he added.
Justice Bhat said economic destitution, and economic backwardness are the backbone of this amendment. Thus, excluding the classes such as SC/ST/OBC from the scope of economically weaker section is not constitutionally permissible.
The Sinho Commission was set up to determine economic backwardness on the basis of the 2001 census. It says 38 percent of the total SC population and 48 percent of the total ST population were below the poverty line making them a bulk of the economically deprived," Justice Bhat said to buttress his point.
Justice Bhat said reservations in private institutions are not per se violative. These institutions constitute material resources of the community in which the state has vital interests, he added.
Thus, the amendment with respect to the first issue is valid, however, it must go in the light of questions 2 and 3, Justice Bhat said.
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