Context: Recently, the Attorney-General of India articulated that the 10% quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of society does not erode the rights of the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, or the Other Backward Classes.
What is Economically Weaker Section (EWS) Quota?
- The 10% EWS quota was introduced under the 103rd Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2019 by amending Articles 15 and 16.
- It inserted Article 15 (6) and Article 16 (6).
- It is for economic reservation in jobs and admissions in educational institutes for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
- It was enacted to promote the welfare of the poor not covered by the 50% reservation policy for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC).
- It enables both the Centre and the States to provide reservations to the EWS of society.
- Addresses Inequality:
- The 10% quota is progressive and could address the issues of educational and income inequality in India since the economically weaker sections of citizens have remained excluded from attending higher educational institutions and public employment due to their financial incapacity.
- Recognition of the Economic Backwards:
- There are many people or classes other than backward classes who are living under hunger and poverty-stricken conditions.
- The proposed reservation through a constitutional amendment would give constitutional recognition to the poor from the upper castes.
- Reduction of Caste-Based Discrimination:
- Moreover, it will gradually remove the stigma associated with reservation because reservation has historically been related to caste and most often the upper caste looks down upon those who come through the reservation.
- Unavailability of Data:
- The Union or state governments have no such data to prove that ‘upper’ caste individuals, who have less than Rs 8 lakh annual income, are not adequately represented in government jobs and higher educational institutions. There is a strong possibility that they are actually over-represented in these places.
- Arbitrary Criteria:
- The criteria used by the government to decide the eligibility for this reservation is vague and is not based on any data or study.
- Even the SC questioned the government whether they have checked the GDP per capita for every State while deciding the monetary limit for giving the EWS reservation.
- Statistics show that the per capita income in states differs widely – Goa is the state having the highest per capita income of almost Rs. 4 lakhs whereas Bihar is at the bottom with Rs.40,000.
Additional Information: Judicial Scrutiny of Reservation
- The State of Madras v. Smt. Champakam Dorairajan (1951) case was the first major verdict of the Supreme Court on the issue of Reservation. The case led to the First amendment in the constitution.
- The Supreme Court in the case pointed out that while in the case of employment under the State, Article 16(4) provides for reservations in favour of backward class of citizens, no such provision was made in Article 15.
- Pursuant to the Supreme Court’s order in the case the Parliament amended Article 15 by inserting Clause (4).
- In Indra Sawhney v. Union of India (1992) case the court examined the scope and extent of Article 16(4).
- The Court has said that the creamy layer of OBCs should be excluded from the list of beneficiaries of reservation, there should not be reservation in promotions; and total reserved quota should not exceed 50%.
- The Parliament responded by enacting 77th Constitutional Amendment Act which introduced Article 16(4A).
- The Supreme Court in M. Nagaraj v. Union of India 2006 case while upholding the constitutional validity of Art 16(4A) held that any such reservation policy in order to be constitutionally valid shall satisfy the following three constitutional requirements:
- The SC and ST communities are not adequately represented in public employment. Such reservation policy shall not affect the overall efficiency in the administration.
- In Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta case of 2018, Supreme Court holds that reservation in promotions does not require the state to collect quantifiable data on the backwardness of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
- The Court held that creamy layer exclusion extends to SC/STs and, hence the State cannot grant reservations in promotion to SC/ST individuals who belong to the creamy layer of their community.
- In May 2019 the Supreme Court upheld the Karnataka law that allows reservations in promotions for SCs and STs with consequential seniority.
Source: The Hindu
Previous Year Question
Q.1) Consider the following statements: (2022)
- Attorney General of India and Solicitor General of India are the only officers of the Government who are allowed to participate in the meetings of the Parliament of India.
- According to the Constitution of India, the Attorney General of India submits his resignation when the Government which appointed him resigns.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2