EWS Quota Judgement: Supreme Court Upholds Constitutional Validity of EWS Reservation

Last Updated on 08/11/2022 by Mega Job Alert

The Supreme Court ruled in favour of upholding the legality of the reservation for members of the economically weaker sections of society (EWS) today, November 7, in a majority of 3:2.

EWS Quota Judgement: Supreme Court Upholds Constitutional Validity of EWS Reservation

While Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, Bela Trivedi, and B. Pardiwala found that the EWS quota does not violate the Constitution’s basic structure, Chief Justice U.U Lalit and Justice Ravindra Bhat disagreed with the majority opinion.

Constitutional Bench For EWS Judgement

A five-judge panel, presided over by the Chief Justice and consisting of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, Bela M. Trivedi, S. Ravindra Bhat, and J.B. Pardiwala, were making decisions on several legal matters about the legality of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment, which provides for 10% reservation for the economically weaker sections of society. The 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act added Articles 15(6) and 16(6) to the Constitution.

Highlights of EWS Judgement

  • Reservation is a tool used by the government to take affirmative action.
  • Reservation based on economic criteria does not violate the Constitution’s fundamental principles.
  • Excluding groups covered by Articles, 15(4) and 16(4) is not against the law and does not undermine the foundation of society.
  • Due to the 50% upper constraint, reservations for EWS do not contradict the fundamental framework.
  • Exclusion is prohibited under our Constitution.

Views of EWS Bench Judges

  • According to Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Bela Trivedi, the state can create special provisions, and the exclusion of SEBCs, STs, SCs, and OBCs does not violate equality law. According to the two judges, there is no merit to the argument against the 103rd Amendment of the Constitution.
  • To bring in an egalitarian society, Justice Trivedi further noted that reservations should have a timeframe.
  • Justice Maheswari’s opinion was shared by Justice B. Pardiwala as well. He added that the causes of backwardness should be eradicated.
  • While the EWS quota appears to be based entirely on economic distress and poverty, which is indefensible, Justice Ravindra Bhat stated that excluding similarly disadvantaged groups of society represented by SC, ST, SEBC, and OBCs amounts to a “constitutionally banned form of discrimination.”
  • He added that the backward classes should not be included in the Amendment’s scope, even though it is still valid. He warned that allowing a breach of the 50% allocation for underprivileged groups would result in compartmentalization.
  • As Justice Bhat put it, reservations made based on economic criteria are legitimate in and of themselves, but excluding other backward people (SC/ST/OBC/SEBC) violates the fundamental principles of society. It is discriminatory to help the poorest, regardless of caste or class.
  • Attacks the foundational principles of the non-discriminatory norm, as per Chief Justice U.U shared Justice Bhat’s opinion.

The Supreme Court supported the 10% EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) quota implemented in government posts and colleges just before the 2019 general elections.
According to the majority opinion of the Supreme Court, the EWS quota is not discriminatory and does not change the fundamental framework of the Constitution.

The quota disregarded affirmative action, which assists historically oppressed groups in Indian society, such as the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (SC/STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

103rd Constitutional Amendment Act

The 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act, which the Center approved in January 2019 shortly after the ruling BJP lost the elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh, included the quota. It was immediately contested in front of the Supreme Court.

  • In petitions, it was questioned if the quota altered the “fundamental structure” of the Constitution and how it could exceed the national ceiling on the reserve of 50% imposed by the Supreme Court in 1992.
  • Only Justice Ravindra Bhat, one of the five judges, voiced disagreement, arguing that exclusion is prohibited under the Indian Constitution.
  • “The foundation of this Amendment is economic hardship and backwardness, which cannot be challenged under the Constitution. However, it is not constitutionally permitted to exclude groups like Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes (OBC), “explained Justice Bhat.
  • The judgement may address important issues such as whether the EWS quota violated the Constitution’s Basic Structure, whether the reservation violated the equality code’s requirement to treat everyone equally and without discrimination, and-more importantly-whether the reservation harmed the chances of future merit-based candidates.

The government insisted that the 10% quota did not increase the 50% cap on reservations. The EWS quota was described as a “separate compartment.” The government was questioned by the court several times during the hearing on whether the EWS quota will take any of the 50% of non-reserved or open positions that are up for grabs and are selected solely based on merit. The court has also contested the exclusion of underprivileged groups from receiving.

To fulfil the EWS quota, the government has stated that it will increase seats in its institutions by 25%.

According to Dr Mohan Gopal in his response, being a member of the forward classes has never been made a requirement for receiving government help.
The government’s reasoning for excluding SC, ST, and OBCs because they already benefit from the 50% quota, according to advocate Kaleeswaram Raj, does not hold water because fundamental rights are individualized.

P. Wilson, a senior counsel, had questioned whether reservation could promote uplift. According to him, reservations are not a plan to fight poverty.

Senior attorney Sanjay Parikh claimed that the Constitution could not support a reservation based on economic criteria.
In favour of the quota, attorney V.K. Biju argued that the Amendment was democratically passed and wasn’t a constitutional fraud. It was a step toward a casteless society, he claimed.

EWS Quota

The Centre claimed that it had approved the establishment of more than 2.14 lakh seats in central educational institutions to guarantee that the EWS quota did not harm SC/STs and OBCs, arguing that the allocation of a 10% quota to the poor would not have an impact on other categories.

The petitioners urged the court to deem the Amendment illegal, arguing that economic criteria could not be a foundation for granting reservations.

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