Significance of EWS Judgement for UPSC
Reservation is basically an idea to address Inequality. So, for UPSC CSE, the recent EWS Judgement by the Supreme Court is very important for both UPSC Prelims and Mains Examination.
If we take the UPSC CSE Syllabus, the EWS Judgement is directly linked with the Indian Constitution, Judgements & Cases, Government Policies & Interventions(GS Paper – 2 Syllabus).
So, a thorough understanding of Apex Court’s recent EWS Judgement is a must.
What is Supreme Court’s EWS Judgement?
- Under the EWS Judgement, the Supreme Court upheld the 103rd Constitution Amendment for providing reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of upper castes falling under the general category.
- The Supreme Court, in its EWS Judgement, by a 3:2 majority, has upheld the validity of the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019, providing reservation up to 10% for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in education and employment among those groups that do not come under any community based reservation.
- The legislation marked a major change in the country’s approach to reservation. From a form of aﬃrmative action in which membership of a social group was the main basis for extending reservation, it moved towards using income and means as the basis for special provisions.
What reservation means?
- B.R. Ambedkar and E.V. Ramasamy ‘Periyar’ spoke about reservation as a means of providing representation.
- Leaders professing equality, such as Jyotirao Phule, Periyar and Ambedkar, wanted to annihilate the arbitrary reservation for certain professions.
- Essentially, the mission was to ‘dereserve’ education and employment opportunities from a handful of castes to make them available to the remaining castes which were aspiring to be a part of the newly independent nation.
What was the 103rd amendment?
- The 103rd amendment introduced Article 15(6), an enabling provision for the state to make special provisions for “any economically weaker sections of citizens” other than those mentioned in the previous two clauses, namely, the “socially and educationally backward classes” and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- It also introduced a corresponding Clause 6 in Article 16 to enable reservation for “economically weaker sections”, other than the SEBCs and SC/ST, in public employment and education.
- Article 15, which protects against discrimination on any ground, and Article 16, which mandates equality of opportunity in public employment, were thus changed to allow special provisions and reservations for the EWS category, subject to a maximum of 10%.
What are the Criteria to identify EWS?
- The government notiﬁed in 2019 the criteria to identify EWS. By this, anyone having an annual family income of less than ₹8 lakh from all sources in the ﬁnancial year preceding the year of application would be identiﬁed as EWS for reservation purposes.
- Also excluded were those who had ﬁve acres of agricultural land, or a residential ﬂat of 1,000 square feet, or a residential plot of 100 square yards and above in notiﬁed municipalities, or 200 square yards in other areas.
- The EWS quota has since been implemented in Central government and Central public sector recruitments.
What were the main grounds for challenging the EWS Quota?
- A law can be declared unconstitutional if the court ﬁnds that it violates fundamental rights.
- However, when the law is a constitutional amendment, it cannot normally be struck down, as it is part of the text of the Constitution.
- However, the Supreme Court evoked the ‘basic structure doctrine’ under which it has held that Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution has some inherent limitations.
- A substantive limitation is the principle that an amendment to the Constitution cannot abrogate or destroy its basic structure. While there is no exhaustive list, concepts central to the constitutional system such as secularism, federalism, independence of the judiciary, rule of law and equality before the law are considered its basic features.
- Therefore, petitioners contended that the 103rd amendment violated the basic structure of the Constitution because it violated the equality code.
- According to them, the violation occurred (a) by the introduction of economic criterion when reservation was only meant for groups that were socially and educationally backward due to historical disadvantages and not due to individual lack of means, and by converting a scheme to overcome structural barriers for the advancement of social groups into an antipoverty measure (b) by excluding OBC/SC/ST candidates from the EWS category and (c) by breaching the 50% ceiling on total reservation.
Arguments against the EWS Judgement
Against B.P. Mandal’s Concept of Backwardness
- According to those who are against the recent EWS Judgement, B.P. Mandal formulated his concept of ‘backwardness’ by factoring in the social, educational and economic dimensions of diﬀerent caste communities. but by giving the goahead for the EWS quota, Supreme Court has equated unequals in the category of aﬃrmative action.
Against Indra Sawhney Judgement (1992)
In Indra Sawhney (Judgement 1992), a ninejudge Bench had ruled that there can be no reservation solely based on economic criteria, as the Constitution did not provide for it.
What Court Said in EWS Judgement?
- The majority in ”EWS Judgement”, largely, held that economic criteria as the sole basis for affirmative action does not violate the basic structure of the Constitution
- In its ”EWS Judgement”, the court said that reservation need not only be for socially and backward classes, but can also cover any disadvantaged section. Classifying a section based on economic criterion alone was permissible under the Constitution, and the EWS quota did not violate any essential feature of the Constitution.
- The majority also ruled that the exclusion of the classes already enjoying reservation from the EWS category does not oﬀend the equality principle. In fact, unless the EWS segment was exclusive, the object of furthering economic justice cannot be achieved.
- Regarding the breach of the 50% limit, the majority view was that the ceiling itself was not inﬂexible or inviolable. At the same time, another point in favour of the extra 10% quota was that the 50% limit was applicable only to the existing reserved categories (OBC/SC/ST), they said.
Q. What is Supreme Court’s EWS Judgement?
Ans: The Supreme Court, in its EWS Judgement, by a 3:2 majority, has upheld the validity of the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019, providing reservation up to 10% for EWS.
Q. What is Indra Sawhney (1992) Judgement?
Ans: In Indra Sawhney (Judgement 1992), a ninejudge Bench had ruled that there can be no reservation solely based on economic criteria, as the Constitution did not provide for it.
Q. What percentage of reservation is given to EWS?
Ans: 10% for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
The Editorial Analysis- Sequence of Implementation, EWS Quota Outcomes