The Supreme Court (SC) today upheld the validity of the Constitution’s 103rd Amendment Act 2019, which provides for 10 percent EWS reservation amongst the general category in admissions and jobs.
A five-judge Constitution bench in a 3:2 majority verdict held that the Amendment provisions do not violate essential features of the Constitution. Chief Justice of India UU Lalit and S Ravindra Bhat dissented from the majority verdict and struck down the 103rd Amendment Act.
“Economic destitution, economic backwardness is backbone of this amendment and on this account, amendment is constitutionally indefeasible. However, excluding the classes such as Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes (OBC) is not constitutionally permissible,” Justice Bhat said.
“I have concurred with the view taken by Justice Bhat. The decision stands at 3:2,” said CJI Lalit while pronouncing his verdict.
While reading out the judgment, Justice Maheshwari said, “The EWS amendment does not violate the equality code or the essential features of the Constitution.” He said reservation is an instrument of affirmative action to ensure an all-inclusive march toward the goals of an egalitarian society.
Justice Bela M Trivedi said her judgement is in concurrence with Justice Maheshwari and that the EWS quota in the general category is valid and constitutional.
She said, “The amendment as a separate class is a reasonable classification. Legislature understands the needs of people, and it is aware of the economic exclusion of people from the reservation.”
Justice JB Pardiwala, in his separate but concurring judgement with Justices Maheshwari and Trivedi, upheld the Act and said that reservation should not continue for an indefinite time.
He said, “The ones who have moved ahead should be removed from backward classes to help the ones in need. The ways to determine backward classes need a re-look so that ways are relevant in today’s time. Reservation should not continue for an indefinite time so that it becomes a vested interest.”
Justice Bhat struck down the 103rd Amendment, saying that while reservation on an economic basis is permissible, excluding Scheduled Castes (SCs)/Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes from EWS cannot be permitted and amounts to discrimination against them.
The Constitution bench verdict came on a batch of petitions filed by NGOs Janhit Abhiyan and Youth for Equality, among others, challenging the Amendment on the ground that economic classification cannot be the sole basis for reservation.
During the hearing, lawyers appearing for petitioners submitted that the 103rd Amendment granted reservation to upper castes, a violation of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. The petitions were filed in the top court in 2019, challenging the validity of the Constitution’s 103rd Amendment Act 2019.