Headline : 10% quota a step towards casteless society
Relevant Articles in the Constitution
- Art 15 (1): Prohibits the State from discrimination against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
- Art 16 (1): It guarantees equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State
- Art 15(4): enable the State to make any special provisions for the advancement of backward classes of citizens.
- Art 15(5): It was added to bring private unaided institutions into the ambit of reservations.
- Art 16 (4): Provides for reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens
- Article 46: A part of DPSPs, this provides for promotion of education and economic interests of SC, ST, and other weaker sections.
The 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act 2019
- In January 2019, the Parliament passed the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act 2019 to provide 10% reservation in jobs and educational institutions to economically weaker section
- This amended two fundamental rights:
- Article 15
- The Bill seeks to add clause 15 (6) which permits the government to provide special provisions for the advancement of “economically weaker sections”.
- Further, up to 10% of seats may be reserved for such sections for admission in educational institutions except minority educational institutions.
- Article 16
- The Bill seeks to add clause 16 (6), which permits the government to reserve up to 10% of all posts for the “economically weaker sections” of citizens.
Act challenged in the Supreme Court
- The 10% quota for economically weaker sections was challenged in the Supreme Court on grounds of violating the ‘basic structure’ of Constitution and breaching the 50% ceiling on reservations.
Justification given by the government in granting the quota
- The Constitution Amendment (103rd) Act 2019 was necessitated to benefit the economically weaker sections of the society who were not covered within the existing schemes of reservation.
- According to the 2010 report of the Commission for Economically Backward Classes, 18.2% of the general category came under the below poverty line (BPL), who also need to access higher education and employment.
- Several committees have underscored the need for the economically weaker sections to enjoy the benefits of reservation.
- The affidavit from a 1985 Constitution Bench judgment in C. Vasanth Kumar vs Karnataka, quotes Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi to make the point that the economy of a family, and not its caste, should be the determining factor of social and educational backwardness.
- The limit of 50% is only applicable to reservation under Articles 15(4), 15(5) and 16(4) and does not apply to Article 15(6) (recently added). Thus, the 50% ceiling applied to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, and not to the economically weaker sections.
- Article 15(6) and Article 16(6) are enabling provisions for advancement of the economically weaker sections and are in conformity with the principle of reservation and affirmative action.