Supreme Court seeks reply from Centre on petitions challenging 10% quota to Economically Weaker Sections, but refuses to grant interim stay

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna today, January 25, 2019, issued notice to Central government seeking its reply within three weeks in a batch of petitions challenging constitutional validity of the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019 that provides 10% quota to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational, which in the case of reservation would be in addition to the existing reservations and subject to a maximum of ten per cent. of the total seats in each category.

The Court, however, refused to accept the fervent request made by the counsels for the petitioners seeking stay on the operation of the said Amendment Act. CJI said “we will examine the matter”.

The challenge in these petitions is mainly based on the ground that economic criteria cannot be the sole basis for reservations under the Constitution. To buttress this argument, petitioners have relied upon the Constitution bench judgment in Indira Sawhney Vs. Union of India.  In addition, petitioners have asserted that 50 percent ceiling limit for reservation which has been laid down in M Nagaraj v. Union of India & Ors., cannot be violated as the same has been culminated as a part of the basic structure of the Constitution i.e. equality, in the present case.

It may be noted that Central Government has already step in to implement the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019. On January 19, 2019, Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) issued a circular to all the ministries and departments notifying that 10% reservation would be provided to EWSs in central government posts and services and would be effective in respect of all Recruitment vacancies to be notified on or after February 1, 2019

The said circular has referred to letter from the Ministry of Social Justice specifying the income criteria for classification of EWS quota. According to it,  Persons whose family has gross annual income less than Rs. 8 lakhs will be considered for EWS quota (Family will include parents, spouse, children and siblings below the age of 18 years). Income will cover income from all sources, whether salary, profession, business, agriculture etc.

Further, persons having the following possessions will be excluded from EWS quota:

  • 5 acres of agricultural land or above.
  • Residential flat of 1000 square feet or above
  • Residential plot of 100 square yards or above in notified municipalities
  • Residential plot of 200 square yards or above in areas other than notified municipalities

On January 18, 2019, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has also written to all central universities, and fully funded Deemed to be Universities to implement the said 10% reservation for EWSs from academic session 2019-2020. It has also asked universities to display scheme for implementing the reservation on their website.


Also read: Why Parliament passing 10% quota Bill against ‘economic backwardness’ defeats the constitutional mandate of reservation