Former Chief Justice of India AM Ahmadi, who was part of the Supreme Court bench that in 1992 capped caste-based reservation at 50%, on Tuesday criticised the government’s move to introduce 10% reservation for economically weaker upper-caste people, The Indian Express reported. He told the newspaper that this was “directly in conflict” with the top court’s judgement and that it seems like an “election gimmick”.
The Constitution (One Hundred And Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019, which would enable the reservation, was passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday with 323 of 326 present members voting in favour of it. It will be tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. Several Opposition parties, including the Congress, Shiv Sena, and the National Congress Party supported the bill, but accused the Centre of introducing it with the upcoming national elections in mind.
“Economic criterion cannot be the sole basis for determining the backward class of citizens contemplated by Article 16 of the Constitution,” Ahmadi said. “That is what we had decided in the majority judgement [in 1992]. This is in black and white. In my view, the government’s decision conflicts with the majority view of the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court.”
“I think it [10% reservation for general category] requires a more deeper study,” Ahmadi added. “I don’t know if they had taken the opinion of the Attorney General of India [KK Venugopal] before going through this exercise. It is an important Constitutional decision.”
“The  judgement clearly mentions that reservations should not exceed 50%,” Ahmadi said when asked if the Narendra Modi-led government’s move is legally valid. “The Supreme Court had put a cap so that reservations are not introduced, and the limit increased, only for election purposes. With this decision, now what remains is just 40% [unreserved seats].”
“Chances of employment for others will shrink. And within the 40%, there is a big population of the country looking for employment,” the former judge said, adding that the government has not created new jobs despite making several promises. “Make in India has not happened. If it had happened, there would have been jobs. So it seems to me that it is an election gimmick.”
He added: “We have to wait and watch how the courts will interpret it if it is challenged.”