EWS quota hearing: Why can’t economic conditions be basis for quota, asks SC

THE SUPREME Court on Thursday asked petitioners opposing the quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) why economic conditions cannot be the basis for granting reservation.

Justice S Ravindra Bhat, who was part of a five-judge Constitution bench asked, “After 75 years, we still see generations of poverty. There is a large mass of people falling in the Below Poverty Line (category). Why then can’t there be economic based affirmative action?… In theory, government schools are available, jobs are available, but these people are as disadvantaged as others. So per se what’s so wrong if they don’t belong to a homogeneous group?”

The bench presided by Chief Justice of India U U Lalit, and also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, Bela M Trivedi and JB Pardiwala, is hearing petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the 103rd Amendment introducing 10 per cent quota for EWS in government jobs and admissions.

Justice Bhat posed the query when Advocate Shadan Farasat, appearing for the petitioners, contended that the 103rd Amendment by exempting backward classes from it violated the equality code and in turn the basic structure of the Constitution.

Responding to the counsel, the CJI said EWS may not have been extended to backward classes as they already have reservation.

“The idea with which this amendment is introduced, I think, is that because there is already a protective umbrella given to backward classes, giving them some kind of protection…That is why they are excluded,” said the CJI.

But Farasat said the EWS quota and backward class reservation are different.

“The quota for backward classes… is a quota for a group and not an individual. It is to correct historical wrongs, to ensure representation…. It speaks to the group…. EWS quota speaks to the individual on the economic condition of that individual,” he said, adding that it will therefore be impermissible to say backwards won’t be included in EWS as they already have the other reservation.

He said there are other affirmative actions which can be pursued to solve problems of economically disadvantaged sections and that it need not necessarily be reservation.

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