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Posted at: Jan 26, 2019, 6:38 AM; last updated: Jan 26, 2019, 9:38 AM (IST)

Supreme Court refuses to stay move on quota for weaker sections

Youth for Equality had challenged new quota law, saying it exceeded 50% ceiling fixed by SC in Indra Sawhney case
Supreme Court refuses to stay move on quota for weaker sections
The petitions were filed by parties, including organisations like Janhit Abhiyan and Youth For Equality challenging the Centre’s decision. Tribune file

Satya Prakash
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 25

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the operation of the 103rd constitutional amendment which provides for 10% reservation to economically backward sections of general category in government jobs and educational institutes.

It means the government can go ahead with implementation of 10% quota in public employment and educational institutes as announced by it.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, however, issued notice to the Centre asking it to respond to the petition. 

“We are examining the matter and hence issuing notice returnable within four weeks,” said the bench, which also included Justice Sanjiv Khanna.

The directions came after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that the amendments couldn’t be stayed.

A day after Parliament passed a constitutional amendment to provide for 10% reservation to economically backward sections of general category in government jobs and educational institutes, an NGO had on January 10 challenged its validity before the Supreme Court, contending it violated basic structure of the Constitution.

Passed by Parliament on January 9, the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019, has been assented to by the President and notified in official gazette. 

Activist Tehseen Poonawalla, too, has challenged the legality of the amendment.

It provides for a maximum of 10% of seats/posts in addition to the existing reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs, taking the total reservation to 59%, much beyond the 50% ceiling fixed by the Supreme Court in the Indra Shawney case popularly known as the Mandal case. It also extends reservation to private aided and unaided educational institutes.

In its petition filed in the top court, Youth for Equality has challenged Article 15(6) and Article 16(6) of the Constitution added by the amendment on the grounds that economic criterion cannot be the sole basis for reservation and that economic reservation cannot be limited to the general category alone.

The NGO pointed out that the new quota law exceeded the 50% ceiling fixed by the Supreme Court in the Indra Shawney case. “The 50% ceiling limit of reservations has been engrafted as a part of the basic structure of the Constitution’s equality code,” it said demanding a stay on the operation of the law.

It said imposing reservations on unaided institutes was manifestly arbitrary as it went against the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench verdicts.

“Both the Constitution Bench judgments in TMA Pai Foundation (2002) and PA Inamdar (2005) make it clear that the state’s reservation policy could not be imposed on unaided educational institutes, and as they are not receiving any aid from the state, they can have their own admissions provided they are fair, transparent, non-exploitative and based on merit,” the petition read.

“If these illegal provisions are not stayed and admissions/appointments were to take place under them, they would be irreversible and cause great injustice and disgruntlement to those who are justly entitled. As nearly 70 years have passed without this type of reservation, it would be appropriate to keep it in abeyance until the hearing of the present petition is concluded,” the petitioner submitted.

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