EWS quota: SC to examine validity, fixes 3 issues for adjudication on pleas

NEW DELHI: The

Supreme Court

on Thursday decided to examine the validity of the 103rd constitutional amendment for carving out 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (

EWS

) in admissions and jobs on the main ground of whether it is in conformity with the basic structure of the

Constitution

. The court framed three legal issues out of more than 50 suggested by lawyers appearing for different parties.

A five-judge Constitution bench of CJI U U Lalit and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, S Ravindra Bhat, Bela M Trivedi and J B Pardiwala accepted three out of the four questions framed by Attorney General K K Venugopal, saying they are comprehensive enough covering all aspects relating to validity of the amendment.

The bench, however, clarified that the lawyers would be at liberty to argue on other aspects also, if they found it relevant.

The first question is whether allowing reservation based on economic criteria is permitted under the Constitution and whether it would be against the basic structure, if allowed. The issue assumes significance as the Constitution does not talk about the concept of preferential treatment on the basis of economic status.

The second question, the AG asked, is 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.

The third issue to be adjudicated by the court is whether the amendment can be said to breach the basic structure in excluding the SEBCs (socially and educationally backward classes)/OBCs (Other Backward Classes)/SCs(Scheduled Casts)/STs (Scheduled Tribes) from the scope of EWS reservation.

The bench would commence hearing of the case from September 13. The hearing is expected to go on for 5-6 days and stretch over two weeks. All the states, including Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, argued before the bench that the 50 per cent cap was not a ‘Lakshman Rekha’ which could not be crossed.

They had contended that the Supreme Court must give “free hand” to states to decide about the percentage of reservation and it should not be decided by the judiciary. They submitted that the number of backward classes in the states have increased over the years and 50 percent reservation was not enough to uplift people from those communities and it should be increased.

“If you go to the hinterland of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bihar,Odisha, you will see how people are crying for education and jobs. The states have failed to provide them schools and teachers. It has to be done by the government on ground and not by court. If the government fails then let the people decide and vote them out. Please take a liberal and dispassionate approach on the issue. Law is not static and it should change to fulfil the needs and requirements of changing times as change is inherent in every decision making process,” the Jharkhand govt had told the court.

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