A Constitution Bench will examine the validity of an amendment providing a 10% economic reservation in government jobs and educational institutions.
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider on July 30 a batch of petitions to have a Constitution Bench examine the validity of a constitutional amendment providing 10% economic reservation in government jobs and educational institutions.
A Bench led by Justice S.A. Bobde said the pleas would be taken up for hearing on July 30, a non-miscellaneous day on which the case could be heard at length.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan made a strong pitch for referring the issue to a Constitution Bench.Mr. Dhavan argued that the economic reservation violated the 50% reservation ceiling limit fixed by a nine-judge Bench in the Indra Sawhney case. Further, the 1992 judgment had barred reservations solely on economic criterion.
In a 6:3 majority verdict, the apex court, in Indra Sawhney, had held that “a backward class cannot be determined only and exclusively with reference to economic criterion… It may be a consideration or basis along with and in addition to social backwardness, but it can never be the sole criterion”. After a gap of 27 years, the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act of 2019 has provided a 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the “economically backward” in the unreserved category.
The Act amends Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution by adding clauses empowering the government to provide reservation on the basis of economic backwardness. This 10% economic reservation is over and above the 50% reservation cap.
Pleas from Kerala
The court on Monday also allowed a petition filed by Kerala Munnoka Samudaya Aikya Munnani, represented by advocate V.K. Biju, who argued against a stay of the constitutional amendment. Mr. Biju submitted that the “real situation of the social and educationally backward general category and their living conditions in the country, especially in Kerala, is extremely poor, therefore there cannot be any stay at this stage without hearing all the aggrieved parties”.
Justice Bobde responded that a stay had not been sought for in this hearing.
The court also allowed a plea by P.K. Santhosh Kumar, general secretary of the Federation of Central Government SC & ST Employees of Kerala, represented by advocate Kaleeswaram Raj, who argued that the amendment clearly excluded the citizens belonging to OBC/SC/ST who are economically weaker.