The Supreme Court will rule on Nov. 7 on the constitutional validity of the 103rd Amendment to the Constitution, which introduces a 10 percent reservation for economically weaker sections (EWS) in admissions and government jobs.
A five-judge bench consisting of Chief Justice of India UU Lalit, Judges Dinesh Maheshwari, S Ravindra Bhat, Bela M Trivedi and JB Pardiwala had ruled in the case on September 27.
According to Monday’s list of cases, today’s list of cases, there are two verdicts – one by the CJI and another by Justice Bhat. CJI Lalit will resign from office on November 8.
As many as 40 petitions relating to various aspects of the reservation policy introduced in 2019 have been seized from the court.
Opponents of the movement have said the purpose of reservation was not to lift people out of poverty, but to ensure representation for those denied it because of structural inequalities.
Calling the amendment “an attack on the constitutional view of social justice” and “a fraud on the constitution,” they argue that if it is enforced, it will be the end of equality of opportunity. They argue that it violates the basic structure of the constitution and exceeds the 50 percent ceiling set by the Supreme Court ruling in the Mandal Commission case.
The then Attorney General KK Venugopal supported the EWS quota and told the court that it will in no way affect the rights of the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
“EWS is reserved for the first time. On the other hand, as far as the SCs and STs are concerned, they are fraught with benefits through positive actions,” he said.
Venugopal rejected claims that it violated the basic structure of the constitution, saying it was given without disrupting the 50 percent quota intended for the socially and economically backward classes (SEBC).
Upon hearing the petitions, the bank noted that the government does base its policy on economic criteria to ensure benefits reach the target population, that economic criteria are admissible and part of a reasonable basis for classification.
It wanted to know why economic conditions cannot be the basis for granting reservations. “After 75 years, we still see generations of poverty. There is a large crowd of people who fall into the Below Poverty Line (category). Then why can’t there be affirmative action based on economics?… In theory there are government schools, jobs are available, but these people are just as disadvantaged as others. So what’s so wrong per se if they don’t belong to a homogeneous group?” the court had asked the applicants.
The bank also pointed out that economic backwardness, as opposed to caste-based backwardness, “may be temporary” and asked whether EWS’s problems could not be addressed through positive measures such as providing scholarships and allowances in lieu of reservations.
“When it comes to other reservations, it’s tied to parentage. That backwardness is not something that is not temporary, but goes on for centuries and generations. But economic backwardness can be temporary,” the court had said.