Reservation for the Economically Weaker

The author here discusses the 124th Constitutional amendment bill. The objective of this Act is to make 10% reservations in public employment and higher education for economically weaker sections of general category candidates

Introduction

India is primarily governed by the Constitution of India as it is considered the supreme law of the land. There have been several amendments in the Constitution of India since it’s commencement in the year 1950. Recently, the Parliament of India passed the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019. This Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment and passed on 8th January 2019 and then by Rajya Sabha on 9th January 2019. Further, on 12th January 2019, President Kovind also gave his assent for this Constitutional Amendment Bill which is to be now called “The Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019”. The objective of this Act is to make 10% reservations in public employment and higher education for economically weaker sections of general category candidates. This 10% will be in addition to the existing 50% reservation for SCs, STs, and OBCs, making it a total of 60%. This reservation is mainly for economically weaker sections among the upper caste. It includes general category individuals and family members of whose family together earn less than 8 lakhs per annum, and who have less than five acres of agricultural land. However, ‘economically weaker sections will be defined by the State according to family income and other indicators of economic disadvantage.

Features of the Bill

This Act amends the Article 15 and Article 16 of the Constitution. Article 15 talks about prohibition of discrimination on ground of race, religion, sex, caste or place of birth. A new clause 6 was inserted in Article 15 of the Constitution that provides the State with the authority to make special provision for the development of educationally and socially backward class regarding admissions in educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether funded by the State or not, other than the minority educational institutions. Reservation of a maximum of 10% of the total seats in each category, in addition to the existing reservations[1].

Further, Article 16 of the Constitution of India provides for equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. Amendment of Article 16 allows the State to make special provisions for reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any economically weaker sections of citizens, other than the backward classes of citizens not adequately represented in the services under the State. Reservation of a maximum of 10% of the posts in each category, in addition to the existing reservations[2]

This Amendment Bill is enforced as economically weaker sections of the society are not able to attend higher educational institutions and public employment due to lack of finance and inability to compete with economically privileged. And they are not eligible to use the existing reservations as they belong to the general category and the existing reservations are only for SCs, STs or OBCs. It is the duty of the government to provide equality of status and opportunity in India. Thus, this amendment was proposed in view of Article 46 of the Constitution of India, which says that the State should promote educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people.

Judicial Scrutiny of the Bill

The said amendment was challenged in the Supreme Court in the case of “Youth for Equality and another vs. Union of India and others[3] on certain grounds which are as follows:

  • According to Supreme Court in the case of Indira Sawhney v. Union of India[4], economic criteria cannot be the sole basis for reservations under the Constitution of India. It was held that the present amendment has violated the fundamental principle of equality.
  • Reservations may be made by the State only to the extent of 50% but an additional 10% cannot be made in higher education and public employment each. The Supreme Court has ruled several times against exceeding a maximum of 50% reservation. At present, only Tamil Nadu has gone beyond this limit i.e. 69%.

Implementation of this Act will leave only 40.5% of seats in educational institutions/jobs based on the merit of applicants. As reservations increase, merit will be compromised. Reservation is definitely one of the gears against social oppression and injustice against certain classes and aids in elevating backward classes. But in India, reservations have become caste-based reservation instead of class-based. Reservation is just one amongst the methods for social upliftment. There are many other methods like providing scholarships, funds, coaching, and other welfare schemes[5].

Conclusion

It is a crime and injustice towards the meritorious candidates if they are being denied the opportunity to serve the nation as that opportunity is being taken by others with lesser academic performance or brilliance. There are already several schemes to help promote education and job facilities for the economically weaker. Also, it’s time to fix a time period for the reservation system instead of extending it to eternity. The weapon of the reservation will be of no use if it uplifts the already uplifted people. It is well agreed that the ones who are not born equally cannot be treated equally but this is not really the appropriate way to reduce the differences of economic indifference. We need to eradicate the caste-based reservation system as a whole rather than providing reservations for the general category as well. It is important that the focus of the people should be more on acquiring the position instead of fighting for the reservation. With the rapid change in the dynamic of society requires a major change in the reservation system. Reforms in the reservation system of India are the need of the hour rather than more and more reservations. Only when the needy will get the needful the gap will be bridged between rich and poor.

Also read Article 15(5): Reservation for SEBCs is valid.


[1]Presidential accent to EWS Quota bill, Scribd, https://www.scribd.com/document/397316998/195175#from_embed

[2] Ibid

[3] WP (C) No. 73 of 2019

[4] AIR 1993 SC 477: 1992 Supp (3)SCC 217

[5] Reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS)- Understanding the 10% of Quota bill, Clear IAS  https://www.clearias.com/reservation-economically-weaker-sections-ews-quota/