EWS quota challenge referred to Constitution Bench

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News: The Supreme court has referred petitions challenging the validity of the Constitution(103rd Amendment) Act which provides for a 10% Economically Weaker Section(EWS) quota in government jobs and educational institutions to a five-judge constitution bench.

Facts:

  • Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act,2019: The act provides 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections(EWS) in government jobs and educational institutions whether aided or unaided other than the minority educational institutions.
  • The economic reservation was introduced by amending Articles 15 and 16 and adding clauses empowering the State governments to provide reservation on the basis of economic backwardness.
  • Criteria: The criteria for EWS includes a) annual income below Rs 8 lakh; b) agriculture land below 5 acres; c) residential house below 1,000 sq.ft; d) residential plot below 100 yards in notified municipality and residential plot below 200 yards in non-notified municipality area.
  • Why has it been challenged in court?  The petitioners has challenged the act due to following reasons 
    • The economic criterion cannot be the sole basis for reservation.
    • The bill violates basic features of the Constitution as reservation on economic grounds cannot be limited to the general category.
    • The overall 50% ceiling limit cannot be breached which violated the decision of the apex court in Indra Sawhney judgement,1993.
    • Extending the reservation benefits to unaided institutions violates Article 19(1)(g) which gives citizens the right to carry out any trade or profession.