10% quota does justice for all weaker sections: Centre

10% quota does justice for all weaker sections: Centre

The Centre has told the Supreme Court the Constitutional amendment for 10 % quota on economic basis would “do justice across all the weaker sections of the society” and “enable them equal opportunity to get access to educational institutions and also in matters of employment”.

The government said it was necessary to extend benefit of reservation to a large segment of population from economically weaker sections of society, who were not covered within the existing scheme.

“The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019 is a valid legislation, is not contrary to Indra Sawhney (Mandal Commission 1992) and does not violate the basic structure of the Constitution,” the Centre said in an affidavit in a response to a batch of PILs challenging validity of the move.

The 10% quota for economically weaker sections in government jobs and higher educational institutions, including in private sector, became the law of the land after President Ram Nath Kovind on January 12 gave his assent to it.

A batch of petitions filed by NGOs 'Janhit Abhiyan' and 'Youth for Equality' among others relied upon the nine-judge bench decision of the apex court in the landmark 1992 Indira Sawhney case and contended the latest amendment completely violated the Constitutional norm that economic criterion cannot be the only basis of reservation. The petitions also stated the overall 50 per cent ceiling limit cannot be breached.

“The court in Indra Sawhney did not have the opportunity to deliberate or hold in relation to the constitutional amendment, whereby the new criteria of ‘economically weaker sections of the society’ has been introduced. The decision was therefore purely on the anvil of the yardsticks available under Article 16 (4) and Article 16 (1), which are distinct from Article 15(6) and Article 16 (6) and will have to, therefore, be tested independently,” the government said in response to the petitions.

It also said several committees have been set up in the past wherein quantifiable data has been collected highlighting the need for having reservation for the economically weaker sections of the society.

“Accordingly, the Constitutional amendments were necessitated for providing opportunities in
higher education and employment to those who have been excluded by virtue of their economic status,” it said.

The government also said, keeping in view the differentiation adopted by this Court in Indra Sawhney between the “weaker sections of the people” and “backward classes of citizens”, it was resolved that indicators that were used for identification of socio-economic backward classes cannot be used for identification of economically backward classes, mainly because, at first place, classes are not homogenous, and secondly, they do not have a common criteria like that of castes, on the basis of which, economic backwardness can be evolved.

The top court had earlier refused to grant stay on the law and indicated to refer the matter to the Constitution bench.