The five-judge constitutional bench in a split verdict 3:2 upheld the Constitution (103 Amendment) Act, 2019 with Justices CJI U U Lalit and S. Ravindra Bhat disdsenting, Dinesh Maheshwari, Bela M. Trivedi and J B Pardiwala concurring. After the parliament has amended Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution of India by adding two new clauses viz., clause (6) to Article 15 with Explanation and clause (6) to Article 16; and thereby empowering the State, inter alia, to provide for a maximum of 10% reservation for “the economically weaker sections” of citizens other than “the Scheduled Castes”, “the Scheduled Tribes” and the non-creamy layer of “the Other Backward Classes”, the Government had notified the same in February 2019.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India has stipulated that only persons whose families have a gross annual income less than Rs.8 lakhs, or agricultural land less than 5 acres, or residential flat less than 1,000 sq. ft., or residential plot less than 100 sq. yards in the notified Municipalities, or residential plot less than 200 sq. yards in the areas other than the notified Municipalities, are to be identified as EWS for the benefit of reservation.
The amendment was opposed by several people and through a batch of petitions raised 4 main questions in the Supreme Court:
“(1) Whether the 103rd Constitution Amendment can be said to breach the basic structure of the Constitution by permitting the State to make special provisions, including reservation, based on economic criteria?
(2) Whether the 103rd Constitution Amendment can be said to breach the basic structure of the Constitution by permitting the State to make special provisions in relation to admission to private unaided institutions?
(3) Whether the 103rd Constitution Amendment can be said to breach the basic structure of the Constitution in excluding the SEBCs/OBCs/SCs/STs from the scope of EWS reservation? (
4) Whether the cap of 50% referred to in earlier decisions of the Supreme Court can be considered to be a part of the basic structure of the Constitution? if so, can the 103rd Constitution Amendment be said to breach the basic structure of the Constitution?”
The matters was then referred to a Constitution Bench for determination of the issues arising from the challenge to the 103rd Amendment.
Effectively by majority verdict, the SC has held that exclusion of the classes covered by Articles 15(4), 15(5) and 16(4) from getting the benefit of reservation as economically weaker sections, being in the nature of balancing the requirements of non-discrimination and compensatory discrimination, does not violate Equality Code and does not in any manner cause damage to the basic structure of the Constitution of India.
Also, the reservation for economically weaker sections of citizens up to 10% in addition to the existing reservations does not result in violation of a any essential feature of the Constitution of India and does not cause any damage to the basic structure of the Constitution of India on account of breach of the ceiling limit of 50% because, that ceiling limit itself is not inflexible and in any case, applies only to the reservations envisaged in the Articles 15(4), 15(5) and 16(4) of the Constitution of India.
Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan welcomed the judgment by tweeting, “Constitutional validity to 10% quota for EWS will open up new doors of opportunities for the economically weaker sections, especially in admission to HEIs and central govt. jobs, further strengthen social justice as well as the spirit of “Sabka Sath and Sabka Vikas.”
Constitutional validity to 10% quota for EWS will open up new doors of opportunities for the economically weaker sections, especially in admission to HEIs and central govt. jobs, further strengthen social justice as well as the spirit of “Sabka Sath and Sabka Vikas.”
— Dharmendra Pradhan (@dpradhanbjp) November 7, 2022
Several minister and BJP leaders are hailing the visionary initiative taken by Prime Minister, which in a way has not only been endorsed but validated as well.
Supreme Court upholds the legality of EWS reservation for unreserved sections . Another big credit for PM Sri @narendramodi ‘s vision of Gareeb Kalyan . A big boost in the direction of social justice .
— B L Santhosh (@blsanthosh) November 7, 2022
However, several people have been left disappointed as they are not convinced about the right interpretation.
Disappointing 3-2 verdict from SC upholding EWS. It inverts the entire logic of reservation being a remedy for group disability by birth and allows individual financial status, inherently transient, to be given an exclusionary dubious share of 10% in which SC/ST/OBCs can't enter.
— K Venkataramanan (@kv_ramanan) November 7, 2022
A lot of people are now hoping reservations are being understood and offered in correct perspective .
Reservation in education and employment should be ONLY economic status based, with special incentives for first gen entrants , differently abled , military and sportspeople.
Caste based reservation is a social injustice, a political scam that robs those who really need help. #EWS
— Kasturi Shankar (@KasthuriShankar) November 7, 2022
to be updated…