The Supreme Court on Monday said it will hear a petition against the Centre’s decision to introduce 10% reservation for the economically weak among upper castes on March 28. The court will decide on that day if the plea needs to be referred to a Constitution bench.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna refused to provide interim relief and said it was not in favour of passing an order at this stage, PTI reported. The court also asked senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who is appearing for the petitioners, to file a note on the points raised in their application.
Dhavan had told the court that the case must be heard by a Constitution bench because it involved the “basic structure” of the Constitution, according to the Bar and Bench.
In an affidavit, the Centre told the Supreme Court that there was no breach of the 50% ceiling limit under the Constitutional amendment to provide 10% reservation to economically weaker sections in the general category. “Merely affecting or impinging upon an article embodying a feature that is part of the basic structure is not sufficient to declare an amendment unconstitutional,” the Centre said, according to Live Law. “To sustain a challenge against a constitutional amendment, it must be shown that the very identity of the constitution has been altered.”
The amendment has been introduced to promote social equality by providing opportunities in higher education and employment to economically weaker sections, it said. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, in the affidavit, said that the amendment carves out a new class of weaker section based on the economic criteria, and the Supreme Court’s 1992 judgement in Indra Sawhney case will not apply.
The Mandal case verdict had 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.
The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019, was passed 323-3 in the Lok Sabha on January 8 and was approved the following day in the Rajya Sabha. The legislation seeks to provide 10% reservations in aided and unaided institutions to the economically backward from upper castes. Several states, including Gujarat, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, have announced the implementation of the 10% reservation.
The Supreme Court had in January issued a notice to the Centre after a plea was filed against its decision. It had said it would examine the matter but refused to stay the implementation of the law.