The Centre put up a strong defence of 10 per cent quota to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in admissions and jobs in the Supreme Court, yesterday.
The Parliament cleared the 103rd Amendment Bill in January 2019 before it was signed into law by then-President Ram Nath Kovind.
Challenging the Amendment, several petitions against the EWS quota were filed in the Supreme Court. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice U U Lalit has been hearing the matter since September 13, 2022.
Not an Infringement on Reservation for Backward Classes
Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench that the 10 per cent quota to the EWS does not violate the basic structure of the Constitution as it has been given without disturbing the 50 per cent quota meant for the socially and economically backward classes (SEBC).
He made it clear that the 10 per cent granted to the EWS, does not, in any way, infringe upon the existing ceiling of 50 per cent of the reservation to SEBC.
More Than 3 crore Poor Among General Category
AG argued that like backward classes including the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs, even forward sections or general categories consisted of economically weaker sections, which were grossly poor. The said quota to them provides affirmative actions to such economically weaker sections which did not get benefits under existing reservations.
Presenting data, AG said that the total population of Economically Weaker Sections is 25 per cent. 18.2 per cent of the total population is Economically Weaker Sections of the Open/General category. In absolute number, it would translate into 350 million (3.5 crore) of the population.
No Political Reservation Under EWS Quota
Expounding on the existing state’s affirmative action besides the quota, the top law officer referred to constitutional provisions and said Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have been given reservations in promotion in government jobs, legislature, panchayat and municipalities.
EWS, however, have been extended the quota for the first time. Moreover, for them the reservation is capped at 10 per cent and is not extended to political reservation, thereby providing a balance.
AG sought to distinguish between the SEBC and the EWS of the general category, insisting both are unequal and not a homogenous group. He said the quotas for SCs, STs and OBCs are “self-contained sections of backwardness” and the EWS reservation is separate.
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