SC to hear pleas on 10% economic quota on April 8

A view of the Supreme Court of India, in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: Shanker Chakravarty

The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will hear pleas to step in before government bodies like the railways, one of the largest public sector employers, implements 10% economic quota to make "massive appointments".

Appearing before a Bench led by Justice S.A. Bobde, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, leading the arguments for petitioners led by NGOs like Janhit Abhiyan and Youth for Equality, said the court should stay the implementation before it is too late to put the clock back.

"Massive appointments will take place... There is indeed a certain degree of concern. Railways have already indicated that it (10% economic quota) will be implemented," Mr. Dhavan submitted.

He indicated the government should not seem reluctant to address the issue whatever may be the outcome of the General elections. The need to address the after-effects of the economic reservation is urgent.

The court agreed to hear the petitions on Monday next. "You address the issue then," Justice Bobde addressed Mr. Dhavan. On March 11, another Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had indicated the petitions may be sent to a Constitution Bench.

The court is concerned with Mr. Dhavan's argument that the 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.

In a 6:3 majority verdict, the apex court, in Indra Sawhney, held that “a backward class cannot be determined only and exclusively with reference to economic criterion”.

“It may be a consideration or basis along with and in addition to social backwardness, but it can never be the sole criterion. This is the view uniformly taken by this Court...” Justice (retired) B.P. Jeevan Reddy wrote for the majority on the Bench. It had also capped reservation at 50%.

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. This 10% economic reservation is over and above the 50% reservation cap.

The government, in a recent affidavit, justified to the apex court that the 10% economic quota law was move towards a classless and casteless society.

The Centre said the amendments were in tune with past decisions of the Supreme Court which called for the “attainment of economic equality as the final and only solution to the besetting problems” of our country.

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”.

The government said the law was meant to benefit a “large section of the population of 135 crore people” who are mostly lower middle class and below 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 section 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 government justified.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 4:43:25 AM |

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