EWS Quota Verdict: SC Pronounces Judgment With 3:2 Majority. Here’s What Dissenting Judges Said

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday pronounced its judgment on a batch of pleas challenging the validity of the 103rd Constitution amendment providing 10 per cent reservation to economically weaker sections (EWS) persons in admissions and government jobs.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit upheld the validity of the Constitution’s 103rd Amendment Act 2019 with a 3:2 majority.

  • Chief Justice of India UU Lalit said that there are four judgments to be delivered on the issue relating to the constitutional validity of reservations of the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) in higher education and issues of public employment on the basis of financial conditions, news agency ANI reported.

  • Justice Dinesh Maheshwari stated that reservation on economic criteria does not violate the basic structure of the constitution… EWS reservation does not violate the equality code, he added. The EWS amendment does not violate the equality code or violate the essential features of the Constitution and the breach of 50% does not violate the basic structure, ANI reported him as saying.

  • According to news agency PTI, Justice S Ravindra Bhat dissented and struck down the constitutional amendment on the EWS quota in his minority view. 50 per cent ceiling on quota cannot be breached and the EWS quota has to go, he stated.

  • CJI UU Lalit agreed with Justice S Ravindra Bhat and gave a dissenting judgment. The five-judge Constitution bench by a majority of 3:2 upheld the validity of the Constitution’s 103rd Amendment Act which provides 10% EWS reservation in educational institutions and government jobs.

  • “Our constitution does not permit exclusion and this amendment undermines the fabric of social justice and thereby the basic structure. This amendment is deluding us to believe that those getting social and backward class benefit is somehow better placed… By excluding the poor among SC/ST/OBC from economically backward classes, the amendment practices constitutionally prohibited forms of discrimination,” Justice S Ravindra Bhat said, as reported by Live Law.

ALSO READ | EWS Reservation: SC Five-Judge Constitution Bench Upholds Validity Of 103rd Constitutional Amendment

Hearings In EWS Quota Matter

Previously the top court heard as many as 40 petitions and most of the pleas, including the lead one filed by ‘Janhit Abhiyan’ in 2019, challenged the validity of the Constitution Amendment (103rd) Act 2019.

The Centre, through the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 2019, introduced the provision for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) reservation in admissions and public services.

On September 27, the apex court reserved the verdict on the legal question of whether the EWS quota violated the basic structure of the Constitution after hearing a battery of senior lawyers, including the then Attorney General K K Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, in the marathon hearing that lasted for six-and-half-day.

Academician Mohan Gopal had opened the arguments in the case before the bench, which comprise justices Dinesh Maheshwari, S Ravindra Bhat, Bela M Trivedi, and J B Pardiwala, on September 13. He opposed the EWS quota amendment by terming it as “deceitful and a backdoor attempt” to destroy the concept of reservation, PTI reported.

Tamil Nadu, represented by senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, had also opposed the EWS quota, saying the economic criteria cannot be the basis for classification and the top court will have to revisit the Indira Sawhney (Mandal) judgment if it decides to uphold this reservation.

The then attorney general and the solicitor general had vehemently defended the amendment, saying the reservation provided under it was different and had been given without disturbing the 50 per cent quota meant for the socially and economically backward classes (SEBC). Hence, the amended provision does not violate the basic structure of the Constitution, they contended.

The central government had filed some petitions seeking the transfer of pending cases, challenging the EWS quota law, from various high courts to the apex court for an authoritative pronouncement.

The bench, on September 8, had framed three broad issues for adjudication. These include whether the 103rd Constitution amendment Act can be said to breach the basic structure of the Constitution, the second legal question was whether the constitutional amendment could be said to breach the basic structure by permitting the state to make special provisions concerning admissions to private unaided institutions, and whether the amendment can be said to breach the basic structure of the Constitution in excluding the SEBCs/OBCs, SCs/STs from the scope of EWS reservation.

The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cleared the bill on January 8 and 9 in 2019 respectively and it was then signed by then-President Ram Nath Kovind. The EWS quota is over and above the existing 50 per cent reservation to SCs, STs, and Other Backward Classes (OBCs). 

(With Agency Inputs)

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