GS PAPER 2: Polity, Governance
Prelims Exam: Judgements & Articles
Mains Exam: Reservation, Significance Implications of reservation
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in a 3:2 majority decision, upheld the validity of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment.
The 103rd amendment act provide for reservation in appointments to posts under the state and in admissions to educational institutions to “economically weaker sections of citizens [EWS]”. This reservation can extend up to 10% of the total seats available.
- 103rd amendment act provides for reservation of jobs in central government jobs as well as government educational institutions. It is also applicable on admissions to private higher educational institutions.
- It applies to citizens belonging to the economically weaker sections of any sect of society.
- This reservation is “in addition to the existing reservations and subject to a maximum of 10% of the total seats in each category”.
- It mandates Article 46 of the Constitution of India, a Directive Principle that urges the government to protect the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of society.
|Criteria For EWS
- The EWS reservation was granted based on the recommendations of a commission headed by Major Gen (retd) S R Sinho. The commission, which was constituted by the UPA government in March 2005, submitted its report in July 2010.
- The Sinho Commission recommended that all below-poverty-line (BPL) families within the general category as notified from time to time, and also all families whose annual family income from all sources is below the taxable limit, should be identified as EBCs (economically backward classes).
On what Grounds EWS Challenged in Supreme Court?
- Amendment violates the basic features of the Constitution and violates the fundamental right to equality under Article 14.
- Reservations cannot be based solely on economic criteria, given the Supreme Court’s judgment in Indra Sawhney vs. Union of India (1992).
- SCs/STs and OBCs cannot be excluded from economic reservations, as this would violate the fundamental right to equality.
- The Amendment introduces reservations that exceed the 50% ceiling-limit on reservations, established by Indra Sawhney.
- Imposing reservations on educational institutions that do not receive State aid violates the fundamental right to equality.
|What is Reservation?
In simple terms, reservation in India is all about reserving access to seats in the government jobs, educational institutions, and even legislatures to certain sections of the population.
Purpose of reservation
Advancement of Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST) OR any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens (Eg: OBC) OR economically weaker sections (EWS) – Article 15 (4), Article 15 (5), and Article 15 (6).
Constitution Provision related to Reservation:
- In exercise of the powers conferred by Article 340 of the Constitution, the President appointed a backward class commission in December 1978 under the chairmanship of B. P. Mandal
- The commission was formed to determine the criteria for defining India’s “socially and educationally backward classes” and to recommend steps to be taken for the advancement of those classes.
- The Mandal Commission concluded that India’s population consisted of approximately 52 percent OBCs, therefore 27% government jobs should be reserved for them.
- Apart from identifying backward classes among Hindus, the Commission has also identified backward classes among non-Hindus (e.g., Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and Buddhists.
- The protests were started against giving government jobs to certain castes on basis of birth rather than merit of the candidate.
Indra Sawhney Case of 1992
- Supreme Court while upholding the 27 percent quota for backward classes,struck down the government notification reserving 10% government jobs for economically backward classes among the higher castes.
- Supreme Court in the same case also upheld the principle that the combined reservation beneficiaries should not exceed 50 percent of India’s population
- The concept of ‘creamy layer’ also gained currency through this judgment and provision that reservation for backward classes should be confined to initial appointments only and not extend to promotions.
- The Constitutional (103rd Amendment) Act of 2019 has provided 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the “economically backward” in the unreserved category. This 10% economic reservation is over and above the 50% reservation cap.
Supreme Court Judgement:
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice U.U Lalit, in a 3:2 majority decision, upheld the validity of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment, which provides 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of society but excludes the “poorest of poor” among Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) from its scope.
|3 Judges ( Majority Views)|
|The three judges in the majority held that reservation on economic criterion alone did not violate the Basic Structure of the Constitution.|
|The legislature understands and appreciates the needs of its own people.|
|Reservation on the sole basis of economic criterion violated the Basic Structure of the Constitution and the expansive view that reservation was an “instrument of affirmative action by the state” and should not be confined to the SCs, STs, SEBCs, and the non-creamy layer of the OBCs but also include “any class or sections so disadvantaged as to answer the description of ‘weaker section’”.|
|“Exclusion of the classes covered by Articles 15(4), 15(5) and16(4)”– the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC), Other Backward Classes
(OBCs), Scheduled Castes (SCs)
and Scheduled Tribes (STs) –“from getting the benefit of reservation as economically weaker sections, being in the nature of balancing the requirements of non-discrimination and compensatory discrimination, does not violate the equality code and does not in any manner cause damage to the basic structure of the Constitution of India”.
|EWS quota over and above the 50 percent ceiling fixed by the Mandal Commission case will violate the basic structure, saying “that ceiling limit is not inflexible and in any case only applies to the reservations envisaged” for the already reserved categories “by Articles 15(4), 15(5) and 16(4) of
|Five Judges agreed on:
The five judges agreed that the provision gives the State the power to make special provisions in relation to admissions to private unaided institutions.
4 questions in EWS judgement:
- Reservation is not an end but a means to secure social and economic justice.
- Reservation should not be allowed to become a vested interest.
- Large percentages of Backward Class members attain acceptable standards of education and employment. They should be removed from the Backward categories so that attention could be paid toward those genuinely in need of help.
- Review the method of identification and the ways of determination of Backward Classes.
B.R Ambedkar’s observations that reservations should be seen as temporary and exceptional “or else they would eat up the rule of equality”. At the end of 75 years of our Independence, we need to revisit the system of reservation in the larger interest of the society as a whole, as a step forward towards transformative constitutionalism. Real solution, lies in eliminating the causes that have led to the social, educational and economic backwardness of the weaker sections of the community”.
Q.Discuss about the constitutionality of EWS reservation? and analyse the impact of EWS Quota on society in context of Supreme Court Judgement.