10% EWS quota affront to Constitution, divides society: Petitioners tell Supreme Court

10% EWS quota affront to Constitution, divides society: Petitioners tell Supreme Court

New Delhi: Giving 10% reservation to the economically weaker section (EWS) among forward castes in jobs and education is an affront to the Constitution as it divides society into the economically weak and the backward, petitioners arguing against the quota told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

With a five-judge Constitution Bench examining the constitutional validity of the law introduced by the 103rd Constitution (Amendment) Act in January 2019, senior advocate Ravivarma Kumar appearing for some of the petitioners opposing the law said such reservation to an unidentified class of population fails to achieve the goal of a casteless society.

Making his submissions on the second day of the hearing on the issue, Kumar said, “Just because I am born as a scheduled caste, scheduled tribe or other backward class (OBC), I am being disqualified from being considered as EWS. The 10% quota condemns me to the caste I am born. There are people who have stopped identifying themselves with their birthmarks. Such people are denied the fundamental right of equal opportunity under Article 19 and my right not to be associated with a particular caste under Article 19.”

Along with Kumar, senior advocates Salman Khurshid and P Wilson also made submissions opposing the 10% EWS quota. The bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) UU Lalit, justices S Ravindra Bhat, Dinesh Maheshwari, Bela M Trivedi and JB Pardiwala asked the petitioners to focus on how exclusion of SCs, STs, and OBCs violates the basic structure of the Constitution. Arguments in the matter will continue on Thursday.

Kumar gave the example of BR Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution, and said, “Ambedkar would not have been entitled to this 10% quota for being born as a scheduled caste.” The notification introducing the 10% quota does not apply to persons who are SCs, STs, and OBCs and whose family has a gross annual income above 8 lakh.

“This reservation divides society into economically weaker and backward. For people living in a cosmopolitan life, casteless society is a goal,” Kumar said, adding, “It is an affront on the Constitution to say that somebody is disqualified for being backward.”

The petitioners further stated that the beneficiaries under the law are not identified. Citing the latest census, Kumar stated that about 60% of the population is identified as socially and educationally backward classes for purposes of reservation in education and government jobs who get 27% reservation. Scheduled Castes comprise 17% of the population and get 15% reservation while scheduled tribes are about 8% who get 7.5% reservation, Kumar said.

“Only 15% will be beneficiaries under EWS and about 30% of this figure may not be covered under the economically weaker criteria, leaving just 5% as the target population. This 5% is is being given 10% reservation which is manifestly arbitrary,” he added.

He stated that those who are poor need to be helped financially by the state in getting scholarship, cost incentives, etc as being poor does not result in denial of access to education or jobs. Khurshid supplemented by providing affirmative action policies in other countries to show that while examining such laws on affirmative action, courts have focused on caste.

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