A five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit said it would give priority to hear two batches of petitions separately challenging the 10% quota for the economically weaker sections (EWS) and an Andhra Pradesh law which grants reservation to Muslims.
The Supreme Court had referred the EWS quota case to the Constitution Bench in August 2020. The petitions in this issue raise a "substantial question of law" as to whether grant of 10% reservation violated the 50% ceiling cap on quota declared by the top court itself. The Constitution Bench has to also answer if "economic backwardness" alone could be the sole criterion for granting quota in government jobs and educational institutions for those who would otherwise have to compete in the general category.
In the Andhra case, the Constitution Bench will hear appeals against a State High Court decision that 'The Andhra Pradesh Reservation of Seats in the Educational Institutions and of Appointments/Posts in the Public Services under the State to Muslim Community Act, 2005' was violative of Articles 15(4) and 16(4) (State's power to grant quota to socially and educationally backward classes) of the Constitution.
The Bench said it would start with the EWS case on September 13.
Referring the EWS case two years ago to a five-judge Bench, the top court had refused to stay the implementation of the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, which provides the 10% quota.
Several petitions, including Janhit Abhiyan and Kerala Munnoka Samudaya Aikya Munnani, the latter represented by advocate V.K. Biju, had challenged the validity of the Constitutional amendment, saying the 50% quota limit was part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
The economic reservation was introduced in the Constitution by amending Articles 15 and 16 and adding clauses empowering the State governments to provide reservation on the basis of economic backwardness.
The Centre had earlier argued that it was every State’s prerogative to provide 10% economic reservation in State government jobs and admissions in State-run educational institutions.
“Whether or not to provide reservation to the economically weaker section (EWS) of society for appointment in State government jobs and for admission to State government educational institutions, as per provisions of the newly inserted Articles 15(6) and 16(6) of the Constitution is to be decided by the State government concerned,” a seven-page affidavit filed by the Central government had said in the top court over two years ago.