A five-judge constitution bench of Chief Justice UU Lalit and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, S Ravindra Bhat, Bela M Trivedi and JB Pardiwala will pronounce its verdict on three questions framed by it regarding the validity of the EWS quota. The first issue — whether reservation based on economic criteria is permitted by the Constitution and whether it will go against its basic structure, if allowed. The issue assumes significance as the Constitution does not talk about the concept of preferential treatment on the basis of a person’s economic status. The second issue — whether the 103rd Constitution amendment can be said to breach the basic structure of the Constitution by permitting the state to make special provisions in relation to admission to private unaided institutions. The third issue — whether the amendment can be said to breach the basic structure of the Constitution in excluding the SEBCs (Socially and Educationally Backward Classes)/OBCs (Other Backward Classes)/SCs(Scheduled Casts)/STs (Scheduled Tribes) from the scope of EWS reservation.
The verdict may also decide whether 50% cap on reservation as fixed by it in the Indra Sawhney judgment is inviolable and cannot be breached as this point. This was argued by various lawyers opposing the EWS quota for breaching the cap.
The court had reserved its verdict on September 27 after hearing the case for over seven days. The verdict will be delivered by a bench on the last working day of Justice Lalit as CJI.
Contending that granting of 10% quota to the poor section will not impact other categories, the Centre had contended that it has approved creation of more than 2.1 lakh seats in central educational institutions to ensure that EWS quota didn’t impact SC/STs and OBCs. The Centre took the stand that the amendment didn’t violate but in fact strengthened the basic structure of the Constitution by ensuring economic justice to its citizens and the upper limit on quota is not a golden inviolable rule.
Countering the stand of the government, the petitioners in their counter contended that economic criteria could not be a basis for granting reservation and pleaded the court to declare the amendment as unconstitutional. They said granting quota to the forward class is a “fraud on the Constitution” and amounted to stabbing its heart.