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EWS Reservation Judgment by Supreme Court, News

EWS Reservation Judgment Overview

  • Indian Constitution mandates the making of special provisions in favour of those who have been historically discriminated
  • Reservation is an instrument not only for the inclusion of socially and educationally backward classes to the mainstream of society but also for the inclusion of any class or section so disadvantaged.
  • Mandal Commission:
    • It was formed to determine the criteria for defining India’s “socially and educationally backward classes” and to recommend steps to be taken for the advancement of those classes.
    • It concluded that India’s population consisted of approximately 52 per cent OBCs, therefore 27% of government jobs should be reserved for them.
  • M.Nagaraj v. Union Of India 2006 case:
    • Supreme Court upholding the constitutional validity of Art 16(4A) held that any such reservation policy in order to be constitutionally valid shall satisfy the following three constitutional requirements:
  1. The SC and ST community should be social and educational.
  2. The SC and ST communities are not adequately represented in Public employment.
  3. Such reservation policy shall not affect the overall efficiency of the administration.
  • Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta case of 2018:
    • Supreme Court held that reservation in promotions does not require the state to collect quantifiable data on the backwardness of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
    • The Court held that creamy layer exclusion extends to SC/STs. The State cannot grant reservations in the promotion to SC/ST individuals who belong to the creamy layer of their community.
  • Current Status:
    • Reservation is provided to Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) at the rate of 15%, 7.5% and 27%, respectively, in case of direct recruitment on all India basis by open competition.
    • 10% reservation under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category applies to those not covered under the existing scheme of reservations.

Economically Weaker Section (EWS) Quota

  • It inserted Articles 15(6) and 16(6) in the Constitution to provide up to 10 per cent reservation to the economically weaker sections (EWS) among non-OBC and non-SC/ST sections of the population.
  • Centre defined economically weaker sections as those with an annual family income of less than Rs 8 lakh or who owned less property than the limits it laid down.
  • EWS reservation is for the economically challenged sections’ employment/job and admission to educational institutions.
  • It was passed to advance the welfare of the underprivileged who were not protected by the 50% reservation policy for the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC), scheduled castes, and scheduled tribes (SCs).

EWS Reservation Challenge to 103rd Constitution Amendment Act

  • Violation of Basic structure: EWS reservation violated the basic structure of the Constitution as it reserved seats solely on the basis of economic backwardness rather than social and educational backwardness.
    • The basic structure refers to fundamental features of the Constitution that cannot be removed or altered even by a constitutional amendment.
  • Social upliftment: Reservations are a means to compensate for past injustices and not a tool for economic upliftment.
  • Discriminatory: EWS reservation was discriminatory since it excluded members of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and socially and educationally backward classes.
  • Breaches quota ceiling: Reservation breached the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Indra Sawhney Case of 1992, which ruled that quotas could not exceed 50% of the total seats available.

Highlight of EWS Reservation Judgment by Supreme Court

Here’s an overview of the EWS Reservation Judgment by Supreme Court:

In favour of the 103rd Amendment Act Against 103rd Amendment Act
  • Three Judges agreed that the amendment does not violate the basic structure of the Constitution,
  • The new reservation is in furtherance of the Preamble’s goal of achieving justice — social, economic and political.
  • The preamble and Article 46 of the Constitution support the legality of EWS reservations.
  • Article 46 states that the government and its institutions must promote the educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections.
  • Treating EWS as a separate class would be a reasonable classification, and treating unequally equally would violate the principle of equality under the Constitution.
  • Reservation is not an end, it is means, and it should not be allowed to become a vested interest.
  • Two judges dissented and observed that, while reservation on economic criteria is per se not violative of the Constitution, excluding SC/ST/OBC from the purview of EWS is violative of basic structure.
  • They struck down Articles 15(6) and 16(6) for being discriminatory and violative of the equality code
  • Permitting a breach of 50% would result in compartmentalization, and the rule of the right to equality will become the right to reservations.
  • An economic quota is justified for accessing public goods including subsidies (Article 15), it can’t be extended to reservation (Article 16), which seeks representation of the community.

Significance of EWS Reservation Judgement

  • Use of economic backwardness criterion: Economic criterion was provided for this new category of affirmative action.
  • Better Targeting: Individuals rather than group became the basis of backwardness.
    • Shift in affirmative action from being a tool for enabling community-based representation to tackle individual deprivation.
  • Revisit reservation policy: An assenting judge said that 75 years after independence, it was time to revisit the system of reservation in the larger interest of society.
    • Reservation as originally envisaged for a limited period and underlined the need to revisit and fine-tune it with the realities of the day.
    • The idea of Dr BR Ambedkar was to bring social harmony by introducing reservations for only ten years.
    • Therefore, there is a need to revisit the system of reservation in the larger interest of the society as a whole, as a step towards transformative constitutionalism.
    • Need to work towards eliminating the causes that have led to the social, educational and economic backwardness of the weaker sections of the community.

EWS Reservation FAQs

Q. What is the EWS reservation?

Ans. With the 103rd Constitutional Amendment, the Central Government introduced the 10% reserve quota for candidates from the economically weaker sections (EWS) of society for admissions and government jobs.

Q. Which is better EWS or OBC?

Ans. There is no comparison between EWS and OBC because both cater to different sections of society. EWS reservation is for economically backward people & OBC reservation is for socially or educationally backward people.

Q. Can EWS take the general seat?

Ans. The EWS applicant cannot alter their category from EWS to Unreserved/General or apply for the openings (Service/Cadre) in the Unreserved/General category after the UPSC has announced the final results, with the exception of those recommended on the basis of General Merit.

Q. Who is called EWS?

Ans. Economically Weaker Sections are eligible for the EWS quota i.e., 10% reservation announced by the Government of India.

Q. How many seats are reserved for EWS in UPSC?

Ans. The EWS (Economically Weaker Section) only provides for a 10% reservation quota for applicants. Regarding the maximum age or the number of attempts, there won’t be any relaxation. They would be equivalent to those of applicants for the open merit (general).

Q. Will EWS get age relaxation in UPSC?

Ans. For the EWS category, no age relaxation is admissible.

Q. What are EWS reservation criteria?

Ans. People who do not eligible for the SC, ST, or OBC reservation system and whose family makes less than Rs 8 Lakh per year should be designated as EWS in order to receive the benefits of reservation.

Q. What is the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act?

Ans. In order to grant up to 10% reserve to the economically weaker sections (EWS) of the population who are not members of OBC or SC/ST, the 103rd Amendment added Articles 15(6) and 16(6) to the Constitution.

Q. When was the 103rd amendment passed?

Ans. In January 2019, the 103rd Constitution Amendment Bill was passed by the Parliament of India.

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