Supreme Court hearing on EWS quota: ‘103rd amendment is fraud on Constitution,’ say petitioners

The Supreme Court Tuesday began hearing arguments on whether the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, which introduced a 10 per cent quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in government jobs and admissions, violates the basic structure of the Constitution.

Presenting arguments in court Tuesday, legal scholar G Mohan Gopal, on behalf of the petitioners, said, “The 103rd amendment is a fraud on the Constitution. The ground-level reality is that it is dividing the country along caste lines.”

He added, “It will change the identity of the Constitution in the minds of people as something which protects the privileged rather than the weak.”

Calling the amendment “an attack on the constitutional vision of social justice”, Gopal argued that reservation is only needed to “ensure representation so that it does not eat up equality of opportunity which is the concern of the backward classes”.

A five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India U U Lalit and comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat, Dinesh Maheshwari, S B Pardiwala, and Bela Trivedi, is presiding upon the case.

The challenge to the EWS quota was referred to a five-judge Bench in August 2020.

Last week, the Bench decided to examine three key issues to ascertain the validity of the amendment. These included:

* “Whether the 103rd Constitution Amendment can be said to breach the basic structure of the Constitution by permitting the state to make special provisions, including reservation, based on economic criteria”

* “Whether it (the amendment) can be said to breach the basic structure…by permitting the state to make special provisions in relation to admission to private unaided institutions”

* Whether the basic structure is violated by “excluding the SEBCs (Socially and Educationally Backward Classes)/ OBCs (Other Backward Classes)/ SCs (Scheduled Castes)/ STs (Scheduled Tribes) from the scope of EWS reservation”.

— with inputs from Ananthakrishnan G

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