The 10% quota for economically weaker sections (EWS) of society does not erode the rights of the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes or the Other Backward Classes, Attorney-General of India K.K. Venugopal submitted before a Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit on Tuesday.
Mr. Venugopal, for the Centre, said the EWS quota was given independent of the already existing 50% reservation granted for the backward classes, that is, the scheduled communities and the OBCs.
The top law officer rejected arguments by petitioners that the exclusion of backward classes from the EWS quota amounted to discrimination. “So far as the SCs and STs are concerned, they have been loaded with benefits by way of affirmative actions. They are in a tremendous position as far as reservations are concerned,” Mr. Venugopal submitted.
As if to illustrate, the Attorney-General pointed to several Articles in the Constitution which provide backward classes with reservation in promotions, in panchayats, municipal bodies and legislative bodies.
Mr. Venugopal argued that the reservation for the backward classes, and now the EWS quota, should be considered by the court as “one single approach of the state intended for the upliftment of the weaker sections of the society”.
The law officer said there were Supreme Court judgments of the past which had upheld state benefits solely based on the economic criterion.
Mr. Venugopal’s written submissions referred to how the top court had stood by the validity of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
“This court had held that the 2009 Act seeks to remove all barriers, including financial and psychological barriers which a child belonging to the weaker section and disadvantaged group has to face while seeking admission and therefore upheld it under Article 21 of the Constitution. Furthermore, it held that earmarking of seats for children belonging to a specified category who face financial barriers in the matter of accessing education satisfies the test of classification in Article 14,” Mr. Venugopal argued.
The State of Tamil Nadu, represented by senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, agreed with the petitioners that the economic criterion alone cannot be the basis of reservation.