Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court on Monday said it is not in favour of passing an order at this stage to refer the issue of 10 per cent quota for economically weaker sections across all classes to a Constitution bench.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, said it will hear the plea on March 28 and will consider whether the matter is required to be referred to a Constitution bench.
The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, asked senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who was appearing for the petitioner, to file a short note of the points which they have raised in their application.
The apex court had earlier refused to stay the Centre's decision to grant 10 per cent quota in jobs and admissions to poor candidates in the general category.
However, the court had agreed to examine the validity of the law and issued a notice to the Centre on the plea filed by businessman and Congress supporter Tehseen Poonawalla.
Dhavan, appearing for Poonawalla, had told the bench that his only grievance at this stage was that this quota should not breach the ceiling of 50 per cent as mandated by the apex court.
The top court had earlier issued a notice to the Centre on similar petitions and ordered tagging of the fresh plea of Poonawalla with pending ones.
Petitions have been filed by parties, including 'Janhit Abhiyan' and NGO 'Youth For Equality', challenging the Centre's decision.
The petition, filed by Youth For Equality through its president Kaushal Kant Mishra, has sought the quashing of the Constitution (103 Amendment) Act, 2019, saying economic criterion cannot be the sole basis for reservation.
It said the bill violates the basic feature of the Constitution as reservation on economic grounds cannot be limited to the general category and the overall 50 per cent ceiling limit cannot be breached.
In the present form, the upper limit of quota goes up to 60 per cent which violates the decisions of the apex court, the plea claimed.
Referring to the nine-judge bench decision of the apex court in the landmark 1992 Indira Sawhney case, the petition said the latest amendment completely violated the Constitutional norm that economic criterion cannot be the only basis of reservation.
It also said the amendments fail to consider that articles 14 and 16 form the basic feature of equality, and that they have been violated with the doing away of the restraints that were imposed on the reservation policy, that is the 50 per cent ceiling limit and the exclusion of economic status as a sole criterion.
The plea filed by businessman Poonawalla had sought quashing of the Constitution (103 Amendment) Bill, 2019, saying that backwardness for the purpose of reservation cannot be defined by "economic status alone".
The top court had earlier refused to stay the Modi government's decision to grant the reservation but agreed to examine the validity of the constitutional amendment which paved the way for this quota.
In poll year, the Modi government has come out with the constitutional amendment bill giving quota benefits to the poor among general category candidates.
The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cleared the bill on January 8 and 9 respectively, and has been signed by President Ram Nath Kovind.
The quota will be over and above the existing 50 per cent reservation to SCs, STs and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
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