NATIONAL

EWS quota challenge referred to Constitution Bench

The Supreme Court on Wednesday referred to a five-judge Bench the “substantial question of law” whether grant of 10% reservation to economically weaker sections of the society is unconstitutional and violates the 50% ceiling cap on quota declared by the court itself.

A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde, said the primary question for the Constitution Bench to decide is whether “economic backwardness” can 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.

The three-judge Bench had refused to stay the implementation of the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, which provides the 10% quota, when it had reserved for orders a year ago. Several petitions led by Janhit Abhiyan had challenged the validity of the Constitutional Amendment, saying the 50% quota limit was part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution. The Kerala Munnoka Samudaya Aikya Munnani, the latter represented by advocate V.K. Biju, had supported the quota law.

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

“It is the case of the petitioners that the very amendments run contrary to the Constitutional scheme, and no segment of available seats/posts can be reserved only on the basis of economic criterion. As such, we are of the view that such questions do constitute substantial questions of law to be considered by a Bench of five judges,” the judgment said.

The Centre had argued that it was every State’s prerogative to provide 10% economic reservation in State government jobs and admissions in State-run education institutions. “Whether or not to provide reservation to the economically weaker section (EWS) of the 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.

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