The bench, also comprising Justices R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai, was hearing a batch of pleas challenging the validity of Constitution (103 Amendment) Act, 2019 on the ground that economic criterion cannot be the sole basis for reservation.
The Supreme Court Tuesday said it would decide whether the pleas challenging the Centre’s decision to grant 10 per cent reservation in jobs and admissions to candidates of economically weaker sections (EWS) are to be referred to a Constitution bench for adjudication. A bench headed by Justice S A Bobde observed that reservation is an exception to the concept of equality and it is “intended to achieve equality of opportunity”. The bench, also comprising Justices R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai, was hearing a batch of pleas challenging the validity of Constitution (103 Amendment) Act, 2019 on the ground that economic criterion cannot be the sole basis for reservation.
The Centre has come out with the constitutional amendment bill giving quota benefits to economically weaker section of citizens. Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the apex court that there are two issues — whether the matter should go to a Constitution bench and can interim relief be granted in the meanwhile. Attorney General K K Venugopal, representing the Centre, told the bench that he is ready for final arguments in the matter and also on the question as to whether this issue is required to be referred to a Constitution bench.
“In principle, we do not want to proceed with a matter and then in between come to a conclusion that it has to be referred to a constitution bench,” the bench observed, adding that it would decide the question on whether to refer the matter to a Constitution bench. Dhavan told the court that if the issue was to be sent to a constitution bench then “interim order will be needed”. He said that one of the issue which was required to be dealt with by the top court was whether the Constitution (103 Amendment) Act violates the basic structure.
Senior advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan, appearing for one of the petitioners, said that the overall 50 per cent ceiling limit of reservation cannot be breached. He argued that the Constitution (103 Amendment) Act says that 10 per cent quota to EWS would be in addition to the existing reservations which mean that it would breach the 50 per cent ceiling. The hearing remained inconclusive and the bench said it would hear the matter on Wednesday.
The apex court had earlier refused to stay the Centre’s decision to grant 10 per cent quota in jobs and admissions to economically weaker section of citizens. However, the court had agreed to examine the validity of the law and issued a notice to the Centre on the pleas. The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cleared the bill on January 8 and 9 respectively, and it has been signed by President Ram Nath Kovind. The quota will be over and above the existing 50 per cent reservation to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.