EWS Quota : Madras HC Issues Notice In DMK Member's Petition Challenging Constitution Amendment

EWS Quota : Madras HC Issues Notice In DMK Members Petition Challenging Constitution Amendment

The Madras High Court today issued notice to Centre and State Governments in a petition challenging Constitution(103rd) Amendment Act providing for quota up to 10% for persons belonging to economically weaker sections.

The petition was filed on Friday by R S Bharathi, Organizing Secretary of Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam(DMK) contending that the amendment violated 'basic structure' of the Constitution.

Quoting Dr.Ambedkar, the petition says "concept of reservation itself is not with reference to the economic status of a person but rather with reference to the community to which he belongs, with an idea to integrate that community into the mainstream system of education and employment."

The broad grounds of challenge are :

The concept of reservation, being an exception to the equality clause, is only justified when it is used for the purpose of upliftment of communities which have suffered discrimination and oppression like the OBC, SCs and STs.

  • Economic criteria alone cannot be the basis of reservation since reservation is not a poverty alleviation scheme.
  • The ceiling limit of 50% in reservation is also part of the basic structure and has been asserted by the Supreme Court in the decision in M. Nagaraj case.
  • In I.R. Coelho case, SC has categorically held that Article 15 of Constitution along with Articles 14, 19 and 21 constitute the 'core values' which cannot be abrogated.
  • Reservation in Tamil Nadu is already at 69% due to the operation of the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Schedules Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and of Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State) Act, 1993 which has been placed in the IXth Schedule of the Constitution. The amendment will make the reservation percentage in Tamil Nadu to 79%.

According to the petition, the Bill was "foist on the Lok Sabha" and the copies of the Bill were not even furnished to the Members sufficiently in advance so as to enable them to have a meaningful deliberation.

Similar petition has been filed in the Supreme Court by "Youth for Equality", an NGO.

The amendment bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8 and cleared by the Rajya Sabha the next day. The amendment received Presidential assent on January 12 and was notified by the Centre on January 14.

Economic reservation in jobs and education is proposed to be provided by inserting clause(6) in Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution. The newly inserted Article 15(6) enables State to make special provisions for advancement of any economically weaker section of citizens, including reservations in educational institutions. It states that such reservation can be made in any educational institution, including private institutions, whether aided or unaided, except minority educational institutions covered under Article 30(1).

It further states that the upper limit of reservation will be ten percent, which will be in addition to the existing reservations. At present, reservations account for a total of 49.5%, with 15%, 7.5% and 27% quotas for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes respectively. "Economically weaker sections" for the purposes of Articles 15 and 16 mean such sections as notified by the State from time to time on the basis of family income and other indicators of economic disadvantage. This will be a class distinct from the already specified classes of SCs, STs and socially and educationally backward classes.