The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on whether a batch of petitions to examine the validity of a constitutional amendment providing 10% economic reservation in government jobs and educational institutions should be referred to a Constitution bench, PTI reported.
The bench of Justices SA Bobde, R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai was hearing pleas challenging the validity of the Constitution (103 Amendment) Act, 2019. The petitions said that economic criterion cannot be the sole basis for granting reservation.
Attorney General KK Venugopal told the bench that 10% reservation to economically weaker sections was intended to uplift around 200 million people who are still below the poverty line.
The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019, was passed by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in January. It 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.
In March, the Centre had defended its decision to introduce 10% quota for economically disadvantaged upper castes, saying the intention behind the amendment was to bring about “social equality”. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government said it wanted to provide equal opportunities in higher education and employment to those who have been “excluded by virtue of their economic status”.
The Union government had said the law does not come under the ambit of the Indra Sawhney versus Union of India 1992 verdict. Also known as the Mandal case verdict, it 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 Centre also said 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.
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.