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Janhit Abhiyan v/s Union Of India, 2022 (103rd Constitutional Amendment)

Article 14, 15, 16,17, 29, 30, 32, 45, and 46.
The 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act 2019

EWS Reservation
The fact of the present case are that, the government of India passed a new amendment to the constitution in the form of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 2019 which granted reservations of 10% to the economically weaker sections of society. It must be further noted that the constitution only prescribes reservation on the basis of social and educational backwardness.

The amendment added two clauses in the constitution in the form of Article 15(6) and Article 16(6) in Article 15 and Article 16 respectively. The amendment also created a clause where the government institutes, as well as the private institutes (aided and unaided), were also required to add this reservation clause. The only exception was the minority institutes which were exempted by Article 30(1) of the Constitution of India.

The 10% reservation criteria were added in such a fashion that there will be no difference in the pattern of existing seats of government jobs or educational institutes but there will be an addition to the existing seats by 10%. Suppose an institute has 100 seats in total then the seats will be increased to 110 and those added 10 seats will be reserved for the economically weaker sections.

This led to a huge constitutional debate about whether the state can craft new criteria for the reservation of individuals from economically weaker sections.

Janhit Abhiyan Vs. Union Of India, 2022
Case: - Janhit Abhiyan Vs. Union Of India,
Citation: - Wp (Civil) 55 Of 2019, (2022) Scc Online 1540
Date Of Judgment:- 07th November, 2022
Judge:- Uu Lalit Cj., D Maheshwari J., Sr Bhat J., Bm Trivedi J., Jd Pardiwala J
Bench:- Constitutional Bench
Court: - Supreme Court
Acts: - Indian Constitution;
Petitioner Janhit Abhiyan
Respondent:- Union Of India

The following issues are framed before the bench:
  • Whether reservation could be granted on the sole criteria of economic status?
  • Whether SCs, STs and OBCs could be excluded from the scope of EWS Reservations?
  • Whether the EWS Reservation could breach the ceiling (50%) for reservations that were fixed by the Court in Indra Sawney?
  • Whether the States could provide reservations in those private educational establishments that did not receive government aid?

Arguments Of The Petitioner
Advocate on behalf of petitoner Rajeev Dhawan; Gopal Sankaranarayanan; MN Rao; Meenakshi Arora

The Constitution's Act of 2019 breaks the 50% reservation cap, allowing a 10% reservation. Petitioners argue it violates the precedent established in Indra Sawhney and cannot be violated unless protected by the Constitution's 9th Schedule.
  • The reservation policy in the Constitution aims to create reservations for marginalized groups, but the petitioners' attorneys argued it violates fundamental principles by including those who have never experienced social or educational disadvantage, resulting in fraud on the Constitution.
  • Petitioners' Counsels argue that the Legislature erred in recognizing socially or educationally backwards as a cause for establishing reservation, citing historic decisions like Indra Sawhney and M. R. Balaji.

Arguments Of The Respondent
Advocate on behlaf of Respondent Attorney General KK Venugopal; Solicitor General Tushar Mehta:
  • The Attorney General argued that the 10% reservation does not impact the 50% cap on SEBC, as they already benefit from reservation advantages in government, public services, and legislative branches. The reservation is an addition to an existing reservation for economically weaker groups, not a violation of the Equality Code.
  • The respondents' counsel argues that the Amendment Act does not violate Article 14 of the Constitution, and the current amendment, providing economic fairness through the EWS Reservation, does not violate these fundamental principles.
  • The right of EWS is derived from Article 21 of the Constitution, ensuring a "dignified life." The respondent's attorney, Vibha Dutta Makhija, believes poverty undermines respect and calls for the government to end poverty for dignity.

On September 27th, 2022, the Bench finished hearing arguments from all the parties and reserved Judgment in the case. In a 3:2 split, the Bench delivered the Judgment on November 7th, 2022 and declared that the Amendment and EWS Reservations were constitutionally valid. Justices Maheshwari, Trivedi and Pardiwala wrote separate concurring opinions for the majority and Justice Bhat wrote a dissent on behalf of himself and Chief Justice U.U. Lalit.

Here is a summary of the key findings and observations made by the court in its judgment:
  1. The 10% reservation for economically weaker sections does not violate the 50% ceiling limit on reservations set by the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney case. The court held that the reservation for economically weaker sections is based on economic criteria and not on social or educational backwardness, which are the criteria for the existing reservations. Therefore, the reservation for economically weaker sections does not affect the existing reservations and does not exceed the 50% ceiling limit.
  2. The reservation for economically weaker sections does not violate the basic structure of the Constitution. The court held that the reservation is a legitimate exercise of the state's power to promote social and economic equality and does not affect the basic structure of the Constitution.
  3. The reservation for economically weaker sections is an enabling provision and not a mandatory provision. The court clarified that the reservation for economically weaker sections does not mandate the institutions to provide the 10% ceiling reservation to the EWS classes, but only enables the state to make arrangements for the same.
  4. The reservation for economically weaker sections must be implemented in a manner that ensures that the existing reservations for SCs, STs, and OBCs are not diluted. The court held that the reservation for economically weaker sections should be implemented after taking into account the existing reservations and the total percentage of reservations should not exceed 50%.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the reservation for economically weaker sections and clarified the implementation guidelines for the reservation system in India. The judgment has important implications for the upliftment of economically weaker sections of the society and for ensuring social and economic equality in India.

Highlights Of The 103rd Amendment:
  • The President gave his assent to the 103rd Amendment on January 13, 2019. It was passed in Lok Sabha by 323 majority votes and 3 members who were against it.
  • The Amendment provides for the reservations of seats in government educational institutions as well as central government jobs.
  • The Amendment was passed to uplift the economically weaker sections of the society.
  • It was passed with an already existing reservation system.
  • The main goal was to include individuals from the economically underprivileged groups in society to attend higher education institutions and fill open positions in the public sector.
  • It said for a 10% reservation for the EWS from the pool of unreserved category.
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