Upper caste quota challenged in SC

New Delhi: Challenging the Constitutional validity of the 10 per cent reservation in jobs and education to upper castes, a petition was filed before the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking stay of the operation of the Constitution (103rd) Amendment Act.

Filed by Youth For Equality, a Delhi-based NGO, the petition contends that the amendment violates the “basic structure” of the Constitution. It cited the 1992 Indira Sawhney case in which the Supreme Court held that economic criteria cannot be the sole basis of reservations under the Constitution.

“The (103rd) Constitution Amendment completely violates the Constitutional norm that economic criterion cannot be the only basis of reservation as has been laid down by the 9 judges in Indira Sawhney. Such an amendment is vulnerable and ought to be struck down as it negates a binding judgement,” read the petition.

It stated the amendment breaches the 50 per cent cap set by Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case.

“By way of the present amendments, the exclusion of the OBCs and the SCs/STs from the scope of the economic reservation essentially implies that only those who are poor from the general categories would avail of the benefits of the quotas.

“Taken together with the fact that the high creamy layer limit of Rs 8 lakh per annum ensures that the elite in the OBCs and SCs/STs capture the reservation benefits repeatedly, the poor sections of these categories remain completely deprived. This is an overwhelming violation of the basic feature of equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution and elsewhere”, it said.

The petitioners prayed that the Constitutional amendment, which has been “passed in a hurry” by both Houses of Parliament as a “populist measure” be urgently stayed as it breached the fundamental features of the Constitution.

The amendment inserts Article 15(6) which enables the State to make special provisions for advancement of any economically weaker section of citizens, including reservations in educational institutions. And Article 16(6) which enables the State to make provision for reservation in appointments, in addition to the existing reservations, subject to a maximum of ten percent.

“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,” said the petitioners.

At present, reservations account for a total of 49.5 per cent, with 15 per cent 7.5 per cent and 27 per cent quotas for Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) respectively.