The 10% reservation of seats and jobs in government educational institutions and offices for economically weaker forward classes is an affront to the constitutional goal of an egalitarian and casteless society, petitioners argued in the Supreme Court on September 14.
By excluding Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes from claiming benefits under the 10% quota for ‘economically weaker sections’ or EWS, the government, through its 103rd Constitutional Amendment, has condemned the members of backward classes for belonging to the religions or caste they are born into.
The EWS quota stops people from freeing themselves from the shackles of their caste and religion. Even people who do not see themselves as SC/ST/OBC are compelled to identify themselves on the basis of their castes and claim quota from within the 50% available to them.
“People who lead a cosmopolitan life are exponentially growing. The Constitution has said that a casteless society should be our goal. The EWS quota condemns me to the caste or religion I was born into. I cannot claim the 10% quota because I am considered to be SC/ST/OBC. I may have never availed benefits, sought reservation or job on the basis of my caste quota… There are highly evolved people who have stopped identifying themselves with their birthmarks, caste or religion they were born into… Are these people to be denied their fundamental right to equal opportunities?” senior advocate Ravi Verma Kumar asked a Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit.
Mr. Kumar said the EWS quota, by doling out 10% reservation to forward classes, took away the 10% from the population.
“The backward classes, who were given the fundamental right to claim reservation, are disqualified from even making an application for admission or applying for a job under the 10% quota,” he submitted.
The EWS quota was “manifestly arbitrary” as it violated the tenet of equal opportunity and equal rights before the laws. “Under the EWS quota, without prescribing any criteria, anyone can be given 10 seats in a medical college,” he said.
Senior advocate Salman Khurshid said reservation was affirmative action by the state to address structural inequality.
Senior advocate P. Wilson argued that the concept of reservation was meant to achieve social justice and not economical justice. “Reservation was meant as a cure for historical discrimination impeding access of backward classes to public administration and education… Poverty as an exclusive test cannot be the basis of reservation,” he argued.