10% reservation quota: SC refuses immediate stay on Act

The petitions in the Supreme Court said the Act violated the Basic Features of the Constitution.

Updated - February 08, 2019 10:59 pm IST

Published - February 08, 2019 12:30 pm IST

The Supreme Court on Friday declined to stay operation of the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019, which provides 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the economically backward in the unreserved category, but agreed to an early hearing of the challenge to the law.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi consented to tagging a petition filed by businessman Tehseen Poonawalla, which seeks to have the Act quashed on the grounds that backwardness for the purpose of reservation cannot be defined by “economic status alone”, with other similar petitions filed earlier.

Mr. Poonawala contends that the quota would be over and above the existing 50% reservation to SCs, STs and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

The law was passed by Parliament and received the President’s assent last month. The Act amends Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution by adding clauses empowering the government to provide reservation on the basis of economic backwardness.

The petitions in the Supreme Court contend that the Act violates the ‘basic features’ of the Constitution. The petitioners argue that the 50% ceiling limit on quota has been “engrafted as a part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution’s equality code” by the Supreme Court.

Earlier petition

The Bench has already issued notice on an earlier petition filed by Youth For Equality, which had contended that a nine-judge Constitution Bench in the Indira Sawhney case had already settled the law that economic backwardness cannot be the sole basis for reservation.

The plea had argued that the Act was “vulnerable” and negates a binding judgment of the top court.

The petitioners have contended that the amendments exclude the OBCs and the SC/ST communities from the scope of the economic reservation. This, they said, “essentially implies that only those who are poor from the general categories would avail the benefits of the quotas”. They have alleged that the high creamy layer limit of ₹8 lakh per annum ensures that the elite capture the reservation benefits.

Further, the petition contended that the Supreme Court had settled the law that the “State’s reservation policy cannot be imposed on unaided educational institutions, and as they are not receiving any aid from the State, they can have their own admissions provided they are fair, transparent, non-exploitative and based on merit.”

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