SC reserves order on sending 10% quota challenge to Constitution Bench

Three-judge Bench, however, refrains from staying the 103rd Constitutional Amendment of 2019 providing 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the “economically backward” in the unreserved category.

July 31, 2019 11:00 pm | Updated August 02, 2019 05:31 pm IST - NEW DELHI

NEW DELHI, 09/04/2013: Supreme Court of India in New Delhi on April 10, 2013. Photo: S. Subramanium

NEW DELHI, 09/04/2013: Supreme Court of India in New Delhi on April 10, 2013. Photo: S. Subramanium

A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice S.A. Bobde on Wednesday reserved its orders on the question of referring a batch of petitions challenging the validity of a constitutional amendment providing 10% economic quota in government jobs and educational institutions to a Constitution Bench.

The Bench, however, refrained from staying the 103rd Constitutional Amendment of 2019 providing 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the “economically backward” in the unreserved category.

 

At the end of a day-long hearing, Justice Bobde clarified that the Bench would first pass orders on whether or not to refer the challenge to a Constitution Bench. Once that order is pronounced, the court would specifically hear arguments on the question of stay of the quota law. Earlier, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan made a strong pitch for referring the issue to a Constitution Bench. Mr. Dhavan argued that economic reservation violates the 50% reservation ceiling limit fixed by a nine-judge Bench in the Indra Sawhney case. Further, the 1992 judgment had barred reservation solely on economic criterion.

Responding for the government, Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal submitted that the amendments were in tune with past decisions of the Supreme Court.

The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act of 2019 was “necessitated to benefit the economically weaker sections of the society who were not covered within the existing schemes of reservation, which as per statistics, constituted a considerably large segment of the Indian population,” Mr. Venugopal asserted.

He argued that the quota law was meant to benefit a “large section of the population of 135 crore people” who are mostly lower middle class and below the poverty line.

“Article 46 of the Directive Principles of State Policy commands that the State should promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the population and protect them from social injustice. In the country’s higher educational system, private unaided institutions play an important role providing education to over 1.34 crore students in various programmes. It is therefore essential that the socially and economically weaker section gets access to these facilities as mandated in the Constitution,” the AG contended.

After a gap of 27 years, the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act of 2019 has provided 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the “economically backward” in the unreserved category. 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.

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