A Supreme Court bench hearing a petition challenging the 10% reservation for Economically Backward Section of the General category in jobs and admissions to educational institutions, refused to pass an order today regarding the question of the consideration of the matter by a Constitution Bench.
The three-judge Bench comprising of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, was hearing the petitions listed before it which included a string of petitions challenging the 103rd Constitution Amendment Act 2019 which provided an additional 10% reservation to people under Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) not covered under existing reservations, apart from the existing 50% reservation. Fixing March 28 as the next date of hearing in the matter, the bench said that it will decide the question whether the matter shall be referred to a Constitution Bench on the next hearing.
Senior Advocate Rajiv Dhavan appearing for Businessman and Congress supporter Tehseen Poonawalla submitted before the Court that his challenge to the petition is based on the premise that the amendment exceeds the 50% base limit for reservation upheld in previous two Constitution Bench judgements.
“It is now clear from two Constitution bench judgements that this 50% limit goes to the Basic Structure. At least our challenge is based on this premise…Certain connected issues also have been settled by M. Nagaraj in 2006 and in Jarnail Singh in 2018…” Senior Advocate Dhavan said.
The amendment has been challenged on the ground that it breaches the 50% cap on the reservation which was held by a nine-judge Bench in the Indira Sawhney case. Another ground of challenge is that Article 15 and 16 of the Constitution do not envisage reservation on the ground of economic backwardness and provide reservation only to socially and educationally backward classes of citizens.
The Apex court had earlier refused to put a stay on the decision of the Central government to provide 10% reservation to the economically backward class but had agreed to examine the validity of the law.