Supreme Court’s Three-Question Test for 10% EWS Quota Validity

Supreme Court’s three-question test for 10% EWS quota validity.

Today’s edition of our Current Affairs will comprise a discussion on Supreme Court’s three-question test for 10% EWS quota validity. Read further to upgrade your UPSC CSE knowledge and also understand the topic’s relevance to the UPSC syllabus

For Prelims: Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), Reservation,  Directive Principles of State Policy, Fundamental Rights.

For Mains: Welfare State, Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), Reservation Policy,  Directive Principles of State Policy,

Context

The Supreme Court will examine 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, as it was challenged.

Probable Question

Discuss the basis of challenge to the  Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota in the Supreme Court.

About the 103rd Amendment

  • Article 15 prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.
  • Article 16 guarantees equal opportunity in matters of public employment.
  • It inserted Articles 15(6) and 16(6) in the Constitution.
  • It seeks to provide up to 10 per cent reservation to EWS other than backward classes, SCs, and STs in higher educational institutions and initial recruitment in government jobs.
  • The additional clauses gave Parliament the power to make special laws for EWS like it does for SCs, STs, and OBCs.

Background

  • The EWS reservation was granted based on the recommendations of a commission headed by Major General (retd) S R Sinho, which submitted its report in July 2010.

Read our yesterday’s edition of Current Affairs on The Eastern Economic Forum and India’s balancing Act, in case you missed reading it.

How is EWS Status Determined Under the Law?

  • Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT)  notified that a person is to be identified as EWS for the benefit of reservation if,
    • She/he is not covered under the scheme of reservation for SCs, STs, and OBCs;
    • Family has a gross annual income below Rs 8 lakh.
  • The notification excluded persons from the EWS category if their families possessed 5 acres and above of agricultural land.

The Basis of Challenge to the Amendment

  • The amendment violates the basic structure of the Constitution, as it promises special protections on the sole basis of economic status. 
  • It violates the Supreme Court’s 1992 ruling in Indra Sawhney & Ors v Union of India, which capped reservations at 50 per cent.
  • Private unaided educational institutions argued that their fundamental right to practise a trade/ profession is violated when the state compels them to implement its reservation policy and admit students on any criteria other than merit.

The Government’s Stand

  • With regard to the basic structure, “To sustain a challenge against a constitutional amendment, it must be shown that the very identity of the Constitution has been altered”.
  • Under Article 46 of the Constitution, part of Directive Principles of State Policy, the state has a duty to protect the interests of economically weaker sections.
  • The Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling in Ashoka Kumar Thakur v Union of India accepted that the definition of OBCs was not made on the sole criterion of caste but a mix of caste and economic factors.

News source – https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/supreme-courts-three-question-test-for-validity-of-10-ews-quota-8147285/

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