In News: A Constitution Bench asked the Centre, States and petitioners to firm up a slew of concerns raised in the Supreme Court about granting reservation on a purely economic basis, one of them being whether it is a violation of the very basic structure of the Constitution to exclude Scheduled Castes, Tribes and some of the most impoverished, socially and educationally backward classes in the country from the scope of the quota.
- The five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court is considering the validity of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment, which provides a 10% quota to economically weaker sections (EWS) of the society in government jobs and educational institutions.
Issues in the case
- These include whether the 103rd Amendment violated the Indira Sawhney judgment of 1992 which had prohibited reservation on the basis of a “purely” economic criterion.
- Whether the amendment “breached the Basic Structure of the Constitution in excluding the SEBCs/OBc/SCs/STs from the scope of EWS reservation”
- If the 10% EWS quota infringed the 50% ceiling limit for reservation.
- If the EWS quota should be imposed in private unaided institutions
- Whether the 103rd CAA breaches the equality code and the Constitutional scheme by giving sanctity to the ‘existing reservation’ which are only created temporarily by enabling provisions”.
- Economic reservation was introduced in the Constitution by amending Articles 15 and 16 and adding clauses empowering the State governments to provide reservation on the basis of economic backwardness.
Significance of EWS Quota
- 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 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 with caste and most often the upper caste look down upon those who come through the reservation.
Unavailability of Data:
- The Statement of Object and Reason in the EWS bill clearly mentioned that the economically weaker sections of citizens have largely remained excluded from attending the higher educational institutions and public employment on account of their financial incapacity to compete with the persons who are economically more privileged.
- The government has not produced any data to back this point.
Breaches Reservation Cap:
- In the Indira Sawhney case 1992, the nine-judge Constitution bench put a cap of 50%.
- The EWS quota breaches this limit, without even putting this issue into consideration.
- 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.
It is high time now that the Indian political class overcame its tendency of continually expanding the scope of reservation in pursuit of electoral gains, and realised that it is not the panacea for problems.
Instead of giving reservation based on different criterias government should focus on quality of education and other effective social upliftment measures.
Source: The Hindu