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Analyse Of The EWS Judgement

A 3:2 majority of the five-judge Supreme Court bench affirmed the 103rd Amendment's legitimacy on November 7, 2022. This amendment grants a 10% reservation to members of the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in government positions and educational institutions. The 10% quota for the economically weaker segments of society (EWS), according to Attorney-General of India KK Venugopal, does not impair the rights of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, or Other Backward Class.

The petitioner contested the 2019 Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act in the Janhit Abhiyan v. Union of India case[i], which took effect on January 14, 2019. This change impacts the new provisions in Articles 15 and 16 of the Indian Constitution. "Non-discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex, or national origin" is covered by Article 15[ii], while "equal opportunity in public service" is covered by Article 16[iii].

Giving economically vulnerable groups in society a 10% reserve violates the SC's own declaration that there should be a 50% maximum on quotas, the Supreme Court recently decided in front of a panel of five judges. The "substantial legal question" of whether the ceiling cap is broken is taken into account.

According to the Supreme Court, the primary issue before constitutional judges is whether "economic backwardness" may be the only factor considered when allocating quotas to governmental organizations and educational institutions. The Centre contended that it was within each state's purview to grant students enrolled in state institutions and state-owned educational institutions a 10% economic reservation.

Current Scenario Of Reservation

  • As of right now, 49.5% of India's land is reserved. The total is 59.5% when the 10% extra reservation for EWS is taken into account.
  • Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, and Other Backward Classes each have quotas of 7.5%, 15%, and 27%.
  • Only 40.5% of seats in educational institutions and jobs would be distributed based on merit if the EWS Quota Bill is passed into law. A rise of reservations can endanger merit, as the Supreme Court has noted.

Scope Of EWS Reservation

The Constitution (103 Amendment) Act of 2019 amended Articles 15 and 16 and added provisions giving state governments the authority to create economic backwardness reservations. The Economically Weaker Section (EWS) will be defined by the proposed amendment bill as having an annual household income of less than Rs 8 lakh, agricultural land of less than 5 acres, a residential home of less than 1000 square feet, a residential plot of less than 100 yards in notified municipalities, and a residential plot of less than 200 yards in unnotified municipalities.[iv]

Significance Of The New EWS Judgement

The 10% quota is progressive and could solve concerns with educational and income inequality in India, where residents from economically disadvantaged backgrounds have been prevented from enrolling in higher education institutions and finding jobs in the public sector because of a lack of resources. Other than the lower classes, many other persons and groups experience hunger and poverty. The proposed constitutional change will give the lower caste poor constitutional recognition. Additionally, since reservations have historically been linked to caste and the upper caste typically looks down on those who enter through reservations, it will progressively eliminate the stigma associated with reservations.[v]

What Does The 103rd Amendment Say?

Additional Article 15(6)[vi]: Up to 10% of seats for EWS may be earmarked for admission to educational institutions. Minority-serving educational institutions will not be subject to these limitations. In accordance with the newly added Article 16(6)[vii], the government may reserve up to 10% of all government employment for EWS. In addition to the current reserve maximum of 50% for SC, ST, and OBCs, the EWS will be eligible for reservations of up to 10%. The federal government will inform citizens about the EWS based on family income and other signs of economic disadvantage.

Challenges To 103rd Amendment

Contrary to the norm of equality, the ceiling of 50 reserved seats was imposed to balance the equality of opportunity of the backward classes "against" the equal rights of all other classes. When the quota exceeds 50%, the equality standard is violated. In the case of M.Nagaraj v. Union of India (2006)[viii], a constitutional court held that equality is part of the basic structure of the Constitution. The 50% deposit is a constitutional requirement without which the equal opportunity structure would collapse.

Representation of the above castes is sufficient:
The upper class is fully represented in public affairs. It is unclear whether the government has quantitative data showing that people from low-income groups are underrepresented in the civil service. The problem with the current SAP definition is that it is too broad and would include large segments of the population. Identify beneficiaries: In a country where the taxable population remains very low due to misreporting of income, implementing economic eligibility criteria would be a bureaucratic nightmare.

'Pandora's box': SC/ST and OBC sections may want similar sub-categorization based on economic criteria in their respective quotas.Reservation is not a poverty alleviation program: In the Indira Sawhney case (1992)[ix], the Supreme Court invalidated the provision of 10% to the economically backward because the Constitution only provided for the fight against social backwardness. The special provisions, such as economic reservations in education and employment, are completely unconstitutional and violate the basic structure of the Constitution.

The exclusion of the socially and educationally backward classes (SC, ST and OBC-NCL) from the benefits of these special provisions for EWS is inexplicable and discriminatory. weaken the basic structure of the Constitution.

Views Of The Five-Judge Bench On The Matter

With three justices (Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, Bela M Trivedi, and JB Pardiwala) in favor of the change and two judges (Justice Ravindra Bhat and Chief Justice UU Lalit) against it, the modification was sustained by a 3:2 margin. Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat for himself and on behalf of the Chief Justice, Justice Bela M. Trivedi, and Justice J.B. Pardiwala each gave a different decision after hearing the matter for a week.

These were the judgments:
  1. On Violative of the basic structure of the Constitution
    One of the most important legal questions in the present case is whether the 103rd Amendment, which provides for a 10% reservation for the SAP, violates the Constitution's fundamental principle of equality. Many people believe that the proposed amendments are consistent with the Constitution's provisions on equality. Justice Dinesh Maheshwari: Emphasizing that the SAP reservation does not create any form of inequitable discrimination, he stressed that it cannot be considered a violation of the basic structure by "abbreviating or modifying" the constitution moderate principles of equality".

    The judge then considered the doctrine of equality, emphasizing that the crux of the challenge to the amendment lay in the argument that it repealed the Equality Code and thereby destroyed the basic structure of the Constitution . He also stated that reservation cannot be considered an essential element of the Constitution "cannot be amended or the amendment is motivated by a just cause, including in the interest of any provision any clause other than the protected clauses".

     "Reservation is an instrument not only to bring the socially and educationally backward classes into the mainstream of society, but also to bring any deprived class or section to the point where it meets is described in terms of the weaker part. Therefore, reservation based solely on economic criteria does not violate any essential element of the Indian Constitution," the judge ruled. Justice Trivedi: Agreeing with this, Trivedi said the amendment cannot be described as a "shocking, unconscionable or immoral parody of the quintessence of equal justice", as the petitioner's counsel already requested. Justice JB Pardiwala agreed with Justice Maheshwari and Justice Trivedi on similar grounds.

    Justice Ravindra Bhat and Chief Justice UU Lalit Both issued dissenting opinions on the issue, finding that although accounting for reserves based on financial criteria does not constitute a violation of the Constitution, the issue does not as simple as one might think. The basic structure of the Constitution is about our fundamental values and constitutional moral identity. "Our Constitution does not speak the language of exclusion," Justice Bhat said. In my opinion, the amendment is exclusionary language and violates the principle of fairness and therefore the basic structure.
  2. On Exclusion of SC/ST/OBC-NCL category from EWS reservation
    The petitioners have argued that the people belonging to the SC/ST/OBC-NCL category are the poorest of the poor and excluding them from the benefits of EWS reservation is violative of norms and principles Constitution. Though the argument appeared to have some substance on its face, Justice Dinesh said a brief pause and a closer look showed that the petitioners' complaint remained completely untenable.

    Justice Dinesh Maheshwari:
    "This exclusion has a clearly defined logic; On the contrary, this exclusion is inevitable for the actual operation and effectiveness of the EWS reservation system. � Responding to Parliament's decision to introduce an amendment, the judge said it was not necessary to expand classes that already enjoyed "another benefit". Reserves are reserved for other divisions with weaker economies because these classes already have reservations. He also said that the quota reserved for other classes under consideration will not be reduced due to EWS reservation.

    The judge also observed that when there is vertical reservation, exclusion becomes important to benefit the target group. "The same principle has been applied to affirmative action on reservation for Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBC), OBC, SC and ST," he said, adding that their complaint "cannot be considered a legal right.

    Complaint submitted to the Court:
    "By excluding certain groups from the benefits of reservations like EWS, we balance the requirements of non-discrimination and compensatory discrimination," he observed. Justice Bela M Trivedi: She agreed, holding that SC/ST and Backward Classes, for whom special provisions have been made, "form a category distinct from the general category or ineligible" and cannot be treated on an equal basis with citizens of the general or unreserved category.

    The judge also said that the amendment created a separate class of economically deprived citizens from the general/unprotected class and did not affect the reservation for the public classes SC, ST and backward people. The judge therefore concluded that their exclusion from the EWS category could not be considered discriminatory or a breach of equality rules.

    She also said the amendment came after Congress became aware that economically disadvantaged citizens were largely barred from accessing higher education institutions and public employment "due to their don't have the financial ability to compete with those who are more economically privileged.

    Justice Pardiwala: He held that Article 16(4) was adequate but applied only to reservations for backward classes.The judge pointed out that Section 16(4) does not provide an adequate explanation of the concept of reservation as such and, therefore, the creation of a separate category of economically weaker sections is irrelevant. discrimination, so long as reservation for backward classes is not affected.

    Justice Bhat and CJI UU Lalit: Both expressed strong disagreement on this point. He stated that the amendment capping SC/ST/OBC in the pre-allocated reservation quota, prevents them receiving additional benefits that address the specific discrimination they face due to social inequality and prejudice.

    According to the judge, this violates the principles of fraternity and furthermore limits socially disadvantaged people from receiving benefits based on economic deprivation.

  3. On Breach of the 50% ceiling cap on Reservation
    Justice Dinesh Maheshwari: The argument that the state can implement any poverty-relief measure but cannot provide reservation for EWS is based on the supposition that reservation in our constitutional framework is only reserved for Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBCs)/OBCs/SCs/STs, according to Justice Dinesh Maheshwari.

    "Such an assumption is neither valid nor consistent with our constitutional scheme," he argued. The judge added that candidates who fall within "the bracket of already available reservation" have no basis for complaining about the additional 10% reservation for the benefit of a different group of people because the prescription of a ceiling limit of 50% for general caste candidates provides no such basis.

    "The reservation of EWS of citizens up to 10% in addition to the existing reservations does not result in violation of any essential provision of the Indian Constitution, as the ceiling itself is not inflexible and applies only apply to the reservations provided for in Articles 15 (4) [x], 15(5)[xi] and 16(4)[xii] of the Constitution of India," the judge added. Judge Pardiwala: He pointed out that although economic reservation excludes socially backward classes, such reservation is not prohibited by the Constitution.

    He cited other provisions that created reservations based on economic status, such as the right to free and compulsory education, to support his argument that reservations were not based on backwardness. society still exists and does not violate the ideas of constitutional integrity. Justice Ravindra Bhat and CJI UU Lalit: Both emphasized that, although the constitution does not prohibit the creation of financial reserves, one must keep in mind the spirit of the debate of the Constituent Assembly and consider the nature of the formation of reserves.

    The justices said reservations, as our ancestors intended, are community-centered, not individual-centered. Reservations aim to reverse marginalization, which has historically denied certain communities access to a level playing field in society. Reserves are used to solve this problem, not to meet the needs of individuals or groups that have historically benefited from social capital and access.
  4. On the time limit for reservation
    Recalling that the framers of the Constitution and the Constitutional Court had proposed in 1985 that the reservation policy should be time-limited, Justice Trivedi said this has not been implemented even after 75 years of Independence. Adding that it cannot be said that the caste system is responsible for the origin of the reservation system and that it was introduced to correct the historical injustice suffered by the members of the Scheduled Castes, the Tribes scheduled and other backward castes faced, while also providing them a level playing field to compete with members of the advanced classes, she said the reservation system should be reconsideration "for the greater good of society, as a step toward transformative constitutionalism.

    Referring to the 104th Amendment to the Constitution, which ended the representation of the Anglo-Indian community in the Parliament and state legislative assemblies, Justice Bela M Trivedi said that a similar period was prescribed. for the special provisions relating to reservations and representation provided for in Article 15 and Article 16 of the Constitution "may be the path towards an egalitarian, casteless and classless society"

Major Drawbacks Of The New Ews Judgement

This decision contradicts the constitutional system, which stipulates that no part of a seat/position can be reserved solely for economic reasons. The EWS quota transformed the concept of reservations as a tool for representing the marginalized into a program of financial upliftment. Reservations are given only on "anti-discrimination" grounds, not on "anti-depravity" grounds.

The Union or the state government has no such data to prove that "upper" caste individuals earning less than Rs 8 lakh per annum are not adequately represented in government jobs and other higher education institution. It is very possible that they are over-present in these places.

The government's criteria for determining eligibility for this reservation are vague and not supported by data or research.

The delay will be assessed using various criteria by the committees established under Article 340 of the Constitution. The backward classes were represented, demanding reservations to correct historical injustices; Reservations cannot exceed 50% of seats, as stipulated in Balaji v. State of Mysore[xiii] and; reservations must balance "administrative efficiency" with social justice.

Further, the Supreme Court asked the government whether it considers the per capita GDP of each state while determining the monetary limit for EWS reservations. According to statistics, the per capita income of the states has significant differences: Goa has the highest per capita income at nearly Rs 4 lakh, while Bihar has the lowest at Rs 40,000.

Way Ahead
Equal educational opportunities: The Union and State Governments should take a long-term approach and make efforts to improve educational infrastructure (at all primary, secondary and tertiary levels) and quality of education. Equality of opportunity for quality and affordable education will reduce the struggle among the growing number of communities classified as "backward".

Discrimination based on caste: Justice Bhat, in his dissenting judgment, noted Dr Ambedkar's observation that "reservation must be treated as temporary and ad hoc". Until caste-based discrimination is eradicated from society, grounds for reservation based on caste will continue to exist and be valid.

Reservations negatively impact all categories except EWS as it reduces the competitiveness they have. Empirically, this seems implausible because EWS candidates are already overrepresented in higher education institutions.

It is time for the Indian political class to overcome the trend of continuously expanding the scope of reservations in pursuit of electoral gains and realize that this is not a panacea for all problems.

Instead of booking reservations based on various criteria, the government should prioritize quality education and other effective measures to improve society. This will instill in them a sense of business, making them job providers instead of job seekers.

Experts' opinions on the ruling appear to be divided. Reservation remains a controversial and politically charged issue in India. The long-term solution is to raise awareness and eliminate all forms of discrimination through socio-political mobilization. Unless this happens, the status quo (on bookings) or the request for further expansion of bookings will continue. Reservations have historically been based on social inequality.

Despite excellent qualifications and scores, candidates from higher castes or open categories are still denied employment. justice for the higher castes does not mean injustice to the lower castes. This violates the principle of natural justice. However, the exclusion of SC/ST and OBC from the EWS category is questionable.

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