The Supreme Court Constitution Bench confirmed the constitutionality of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment, which established a 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in education and public employment, by a 3:2 majority.
While Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, Bela Trivedi, and JB Pardiwala upheld the 103rd Constitution Amendment, Justice S Ravindra Bhat wrote a dissenting opinion in which he ruled that it should be repealed. Justice Bhat’s minority opinion was shared by Chief Justice of India Uday Umesh Lalit.
The three main issues:
- Whether the 103rd Constitutional Amendment violates the basic structure by allowing reservations purely based on economic grounds.
- Whether the amendment violates the basic structure by removing impoverished people from the SC/ST/OBC categories from the EWS Quota.
- Whether the amendment violates the fundamental structure by exceeding the 50% ceiling limit.
According to the majority, the amendment does not violate the basic structure on any of the aforementioned points. According to the majority opinion of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, Bela M Trivedi, and JB Pardiwala, reservation based only on economic reasons does not contradict the fundamental structure of the Constitution. They have also ruled that EWS reservations above the 50% upper limit do not violate the basic framework. Justice Trivedi in her judgment said that the State has come out with amendment for advancement of EWS categories. She observed, “The impugned amendment has to be treated as an affirmative action by the Parliament for the benefit of EWS class. It cannot be said to be unreasonable classification…Treating EWS as separate class would be a reasonable classification. Just as equals cannot be treated unequally, unequals cannot be treated equally. Treating unequals equally violates equality under the Constitution…The amendment creates a separate class of EWS. The exclusion of SEBCs cannot be said as discriminatory or violative of Constitution.”
In their dissenting opinion, Chief Justice of India UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat stated that reservation based on economic reasons is not inherently violative. The 103rd Amendment, on the other hand, practises constitutionally prohibited types of discrimination by excluding the impoverished from SC/ST/OBC from economically backward classes (on the grounds that they have received assistance).
They also advised against exceeding the 50% reservation limit. He stated, “A 50% permit violation would result in compartmentalization. The law of equality will become the rule of reservations, returning us to Champakam Dorairajan.”
CASE: Janhit Abhiyan v. Union of India, with 32 related matters