In an important judgement, the 103rd Constitutional Amendment which introduced 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in education and public employment was upheld by the Supreme Court Constitution Bench with a 3:2 majority. Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, Bela Trivedi and JB Pardiwala upheld the amendment and Justice S Ravindra Bhat along with CJI UU Lalit dissented with the majority view. While upholding the amendment, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari stated that the 50% ceiling limit was "not inflexible" and thus, the breaching of the said limit did not violate the basic structure of the Indian Constitution in any way.
Justice Dinesh Maheshwari had stated that there were three main issues in the case :
1. Whether the 103rd Constitution Amendment is violative of basic structure for providing reservation solely on the basis of economic criteria.
2. Whether the amendment is violative of basic structure for excluding the poor among the SC/ST/OBC categories from EWS Quota.
3. Whether the amendment is violative of the basic structure for breaching the 50% ceiling limit.
According to the majority view, the amendment is not violative of the basic structure on any of the above issues.
While answering the third question, Justice Maheshwari stated–
"Reservations for economically weaker sections of citizens up to 10% in addition to the existing reservations does not result in violation of any essential feature of the Constitution and does not cause any damage to the basic structure of the Constitution of India on account of breach of the ceiling limit of 50%. This is because that ceiling limit itself is not inflexible and in any case applies only to the reservations envisioned by Articles 15(4), 15(5) and 16(4) of the Constitution of India."
It is to be noted that Justices Bela M Trivedi and JB Pardiwala have both concurred with Justice Maheshwari.
Per contra, the dissenting opinion by Justice Bhat and CJI UU Lalit states that–
"Permitting the breach of the 50% rule would become a gateway of further infractions which would result in compartmentalisation. The rule of equality would then be reduced to the right of reservation, leading us back to the days of Champakam Dorairajan. In this regard the observations of Ambedkar have to be kept in mind that reservations are to be seen as temporary and exceptional or they could eat up the rule of equality."
In the hearing which spanned for seven days, Sr. Adv. Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for petitioners had argued that the ceiling limit of 50% was so sacrosanct that its violation would be shocking. Dr. Mohan Gopal for petitioners had also submitted that the compartmentalisation of classes and the letting loose of reservations in the society as a benign welfare activity violently opposed the basic structure of the Indian Constitution.
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