No bias in keeping poor from reserved groups out of EWS quota, govt tells Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: Contending that granting reservation to only the poor from the general category and keeping those from SCs/STs/OBCs/SEBCs out of the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota is not discriminatory, the Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the reserved classes are at an “advantageous position” in comparison to the general class in getting reservation and the poor people from these classes cannot be treated equally with those belonging to the unreserved category.
Appearing before a constitution bench of Chief Justice U U Lalit and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, S Ravindra Bhat, Bela M Trivedi and J B Pardiwala, attorney general K K Venugopal initiated the arguments on behalf of the Centre and submitted that granting 10 percent EWS quota would also not amount to violation of the apex court’s previous judgement on fixing a ceiling of 50%.
He elaborated that the Indra Sawhney judgement on ceiling on reservation was meant to ensure that people from the general class are not denied opportunity and they must get 50% seats in jobs and educational institutions. He said the EWS quota is not violative of that principle as people from general class would continue to have 50% and the poor from that category would get the reservation.
“Discrimination arises when two classes are similarly placed. Look at the benefits that SCs/STs/ OBCs have been granted. The reservations were rightly given to them for being on the sidelines for centuries. EWS has been given this for the first time. On the other hand, so far as the SCs and STs are concerned, they’ve been loaded with benefits by way of affirmative actions. They are at an advantageous position as far as reservation is concerned and they are not equal to EWS from the general category,” Venugopal said.
He said the 103rd constitution amendment, making provision for EWS quota, did not disturb the existing reservation for other classes and they should not complain about quota granted to the poor section from the general class. He said that 18.2% of the population from the general classes are below the poverty line and they also deserved preferential treatment.
“The judgment in Indra Sawhney cannot be invoked, as the issues there, dealt with the scope and content of reservations contained in Article 15(4) and Article 15(5) and Article 16(4) and Article 16 (5), which dealt with a totally different category of weaker sections, namely the socially and educationally backward and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. No question of whether the weaker sections of the society were entitled to the benefit of reservation could arise in that case and if decided can only be treated as obiter,” he said.
Senior advocate Gopal Sankarnarayanan, appearing for organisation ‘Youth for Equality’, contended that insertion of EWS is perfectly valid as it is not based on caste but said quota cannot be granted in breach of 50% ceiling.
The hearing remained inconclusive and would resume on Wednesday.

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