SC upholds 10% EWS quota, no big fiscal burden seen | The Financial Express

SC upholds 10% EWS quota, no big fiscal burden seen

50% ceiling on reservation and that the Central government institutions will increase seats by 25% to accommodate the EWS quota.

SC upholds 10% EWS quota, no big fiscal burden seen
Justice Maheswari wrote that the EWS reservation doesn’t cause damage to any essential feature of the Constitution by exceeding the 50% ceiling as this cap itself is not unbreachable. (IE)

The Supreme Court on Monday by a 3:2 majority view upheld the validity of the 103rd Constitution amendment, giving 10% reservation to the economically weaker sections (EWS) in government jobs and educational institutions. Analysts said the verdict may lead to some additional jobs in the government initially, to make good on any shortfall in the 50% caste-based reservation. However, they said eventually the EWS quota will be built into the government’s hiring plan without causing significant additional fiscal burden.

Most political parties, including the BJP that leads the ruling coalition at the Centre and the Congress, welcomed the ruling. While the Constitutional Bench delivered four judgments, three judges — Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, Bela M Trivedi and JB Pardiwala — in separate opinions ruled in favour of the quota for EWS, saying it doesn’t violate the basic structure of the Constitution. It can’t be said to be discriminatory either, they said.

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Justice Maheswari wrote that the EWS reservation doesn’t cause damage to any essential feature of the Constitution by exceeding the 50% ceiling as this cap itself is not unbreachable. Reservation is an instrument of affirmative action by the state for not just inclusion of socially and economically backward classes into society, but also to class so disadvantaged, he noted.

Justices Trivedi and Pardiwala also saw the need torevisit the reservation policy.

However, Justice S Ravindra Bhat, writing for himself and Chief Justice UU Lalit, dissented and struck down the amendment on the EWS quota.

Justice Maheshwari said the 103rd Constitution Amendment cannot 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 and in excluding the SEBCs/ OBCs/ SCs/ STs from the scope of EWS reservation.

Concurring with Justice Maheshwari, Justice Trivedi said unequals can’t be treated equally. Exclusion of SC/ST and backward class of citizens from the newly created class for the benefit of the “EWS of the citizens” cannot be said to be discriminatory or violative of the equality code, she added.

While upholding the validity of EWS quota, Justice Pardiwala said “reservation is not an end but a means to secure social justice and economic justice”. He said Babasaheb Ambedkar’s idea “was to bring social harmony by introducing reservation for only ten years. However, it has continued past seven decades. Reservation should not continue for an indefinite period of time so as to become a vested interest”.

He said the real solution, however, lies in eliminating the causes that have led to social, educational and economic backwardness of the weaker sections of society. “… As larger percentages of backward class members attain acceptable standards of education and employment, they should be removed from the backward categories so that the attention can be paid toward those classes which genuinely need help, ” Justice Pardiwala said.

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While the petitions had challenged the validity of the amendment on the grounds that it was contrary to the equality code, the government had argued that the 10% quota was not an addition to the

50% ceiling on reservation and that the Central government institutions will increase seats by 25% to accommodate the EWS quota.

Legal experts termed the judgment as “a pathbreaking one”. SC lawyer Abhinav Mukherjee said the verdict “recognises economic differentiator as a valid means of classification irrespective of caste or religion. It empowers the government to frame inclusive policies targeting all sections of society. Dr Ambedkar’s vision of a class-free society may become a reality soon”.

NR Bhanumurthy, vice-chancellor of Bengaluru’s BASE University, said the move may lead to some additional jobs in the first year of implementation. But subsequently, this 10% limit will be built into the government’s hiring plan, which means no additional job will have to be created specifically to comply with this directive, he said. “It’s difficult to assess the immediate fiscal impact of such a move, as we don’t have the data on the number of employees (belonging to the EWS group) that are already hired or are going to be hired for this purpose, and at what level. In any case, there is unlikely to be any meaningful extra fiscal burden due to this,” Bhanumurthy said.

BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia termed the decision historic, as it did not take away from the rights of the OBC and SC communities. “The Supreme Court has held that the said amendment is constitutional and also reflects the vision of the prime minister to empower the poor and ensure there is social equality of status,” he said.

In a statement, Congress general secretary for communication Jairam Ramesh welcomed the SC judgment, but added that “the Amendment itself was the result of a process initiated by Manmohan Singh’s government in 2005-06 with the appointment of the Sinho Commission that submitted its report in July 2010”.

(With inputs from Banikinkar Pattanayak)

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First published on: 08-11-2022 at 02:15 IST