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Economic Reservation challenge: Supreme Court reserves order on reference to Larger Bench

Economic Reservation challenge: Supreme Court reserves order on reference to Larger Bench

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today reserved its order on the question of whether the petitions challenging the validity of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment which introduced Economic Reservation, should be referred to a Constitution Bench.

While reserving the order, the three-Judge Bench of Justices SA Bobde, R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai said that while delivering its order on reference, the parties will be heard on the question of stay.

During the course of the two-day long hearing in the case, the petitioners claimed that important and substantial questions regarding interpretation of the Constitution are involved in the case. The Government, however, defended the amendment saying that the 10 percent quota does not violate the Basic Structure of the Constitution of India.

Senior Counsel Rajeev Dhavan, arguing for Tehseen Poonawala, raised the question of interpretation of the words “backward” and “socially and educationally backward classes”. Dhavan also submitted that the question whether the amendment violates the basic structure of the Constitution needs to be considered in detail.

Arguing for Youth for Equality, Senior Counsel Gopal Sankaranarayanan took the position that while the 10 percent reservation earmarked for economically Weaker sections is acceptable, the total reservation should not exceed the 50 percent cap.

Attorney General KK Venugopal defending the Centre and the amendment argued that this amendment does not violate the Basic Structure or goes against the Supreme Court ruling in the Indra Sawhney case. The amendment, in fact, is an attempt for the emancipation of the poor and downtrodden who belong to the General Category.

The Court went on to reserve its order in the case after observing that it has sufficient material to decide on the question of reference. Should a reference be made to a larger Bench, this Bench would hear the parties on the question of staying the operation of the amendment.

The Constitution (103rd) Amendment introduced economic reservation up to ten percent for financially weaker sections of the general category population.

The Economic Reservation Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament within a span of two days. Three days after it was approved by Parliament, the President accorded his assent for the same. However, even as Presidential assent was pending, the NGO Youth for Equality moved the Supreme Court challenging the legislation.

Two days after it was assented to, on January 14, the Economic Reservation Act came into force.

Subsequently, a slew of petitions came to be filed in Supreme Court challenging the amendment. The Supreme Court had issued notice in the matter on January 25.

Read the Order: