A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Monday held that the 103rd amendment brought to the Constitution aimed at providing 10 per cent quota to the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) does not violate the basic structure and ruled it as valid. The bench comprised of Chief Justice of India UU Lalit, Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, S Ravindra Bhat, Bela Trivedi and JB Pardiwala. The landmark decision to uphold the EWS quota was taken by a 3:2 majority, with two judges on the bench — CJI Lalit and Justice Bhat — dissenting.
Delivering the judgement, Justice Maheshwari stated that the amendment was “an affirmative action” meant to include all classes or sections, which were “disadvantaged” and aimed at creating an equal society.
Concurring with Justice Maheshwari’s judgement, Justices Trivedi and Pardiwala upheld the EWS quota. Stating that economically backward people are a reasonable classification, Justice Trivedi ruled that the amendment doesn’t violate right to equality, reported Bar and Bench. Meanwhile, Justice Bhat ruled that excluding the poor among SC/ST/OBC from the 103rd amendment violated the basic structure of the constitution by overlooking principles of social justice. Justice Bhat ruled that the exclusion of the poor from the Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBC) was “incorrect,” observing that the amendment was based on the premise that the ones already getting social and backward class benefit are “somehow better placed,” according to Live Law. Justice Bhat also held that the violation of the 50% ceiling of reservation will lead to “compartmentalisation,” according to Live Law. CJI Lalit concurred with Justice Bhat’s minority view.
The apex court was hearing petitions challenging the 2019 amendment, which had added an extra clause in Articles 15 and 16 respectively, enabling the state to allow reservations for “economically weaker groups” of the society in educational institutions, including both private, barring minority educational institutions under Article 30 (1), and in government posts. The amendment also provided for a 10 per cent upper limit, besides any existing reservations.