SC upholds 10% reservation for EWS in admissions, govt jobs

RNS: The Supreme Court upheld, by a 3–2 vote, the constitutionality of the 103rd Amendment, which reserves 10% of university and government jobs for those from economically weaker section (EWS) backgrounds.

The Act was supported by three justices (Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, Bela Trivedi, and JB Pardiwala), and rejected by two others. One judge, S. Ravindra Bhat, dissented, writing that the law was unconstitutional and discriminatory. Supreme Court Chief Justice U U Lalit shared Justice S Ravindra Bhat’s opinion.

Justice Trivedi said that the EWS quota law is not unfair. Justice Maheshwari said that the EWS quota law doesn’t break the equality code or the basic structure because it takes economic factors into account. It also doesn’t hurt any important parts if it goes over the 50% ceiling for quota, because the ceiling is flexible.

Notably, the 103rd constitutional amendment was cleared by parliament in January 2019 and was instantly challenged in the Supreme Court. While most opposition parties, including the Congress, did not oppose the law, as many as 40 petitions were heard by the Supreme Court against it, including by the state of Tamil Nadu which has among the highest reservation in the country arranged in a delicate balance.

The petitioners had questioned several aspects of the EWS quota, including how it could cross the 50 percent national cap on reservation set by the Supreme Court in 1992 and whether it changed the “basic structure” of the constitution.

The case was first presented before three judges, who referred it to a larger five-judge bench in 2019. This September, the court held a marathon six-and-half-day hearing of the case and reserved its verdict.

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