Advocate Indra Sawhney, whose petition led to the Mandal judgement that capped reservation at 50%, has said that she may move the Supreme Court against the Centre’s bid to offer 10% reservation to economically weaker sections among the upper castes, The Indian Express reported on Sunday. Sawhney said the Bharatiya Janata Party’s draft law passed by Parliament violates the Constitution.
The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019, was passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday and the Rajya Sabha a day later. The bill provides reservations in aided and unaided institutions to individuals below an income of Rs 8 lakh per annum. The government has said that the legislation will not affect the existing reservations for other groups.
On Saturday, President Ram Nath Kovind signed the bill into law.
“Some people have approached me and have asked if I would challenge the 60% reservation before the Supreme Court,” Sawhney told The Indian Express. “Someone has already filed a petition in the Supreme Court. At present, I have not decided whether I will move the SC, I am thinking about it. Let me decide and then I will come forward.”
The bill violates Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth), the lawyer said. “It excludes the Other Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from this reservation, which is on economic basis… Hence, the amendment is discriminatory and is in conflict with Articles 14 and 15.”
Sawhney said the amendment has not clearly specified who comes under the category of the economically weak. “They have left it to the states to decide,” she added. “And each state will come up with their definition.”
In 1992, she had filed a petition in the court against former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s quota move. “I was witness to a protest by a student near Jhandewalan [in Delhi] against reservations,” Sawhney said. “That changed everything, and I decided to fight the case.”
The Mandal case verdict placed certain restrictions on the Centre to ensure that a certain quota of college seats and jobs were reserved. The court had also held that reservations cannot be based on the economic criterion alone.
Several Opposition parties, including the Congress, the Shiv Sena, and the National Congress Party have supported the bill. However, they have accused the Centre of introducing it with the General Elections in mind. The polls are expected to be held in April and May. But most Opposition parties eventually voted in favour of the bill in both the Houses.