Mixed response to SC verdict in pleas against EWS reservation for forward castes

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh pointed out that the process was initiated by the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government in 2005-06

Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India
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NH Web Desk

There was mixed response to the Supreme Court order upholding the constitutional validity of the 103rd Constitution Amendment 2019, which provides for 10 per cent EWS reservation amongst the forward castes.

A five-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) UU Lalit and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, S Ravindra Bhat, Bela M Trivedi and JB Pardiwala delivered the judgement on Monday.

There were three concurring judgements, with Justice Ravindra Bhat delivering a dissenting judgment. CJI Lalit said he agreed with Bhat’s opinion in its entirety.

Most parties, including the Congress, did not oppose the law. Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh welcomed the move. “The amendment itself was the result of a process initiated by Dr Manmohan Singh's government in 2005-06 with the appointment of the Sinho Commission that submitted its report in July 2010. Thereafter, widespread consultations were held and the Bill was ready by 2014. It took the Modi Sarkar five years to get the Bill enacted,” he said.

However, Congress leader Udit Raj called the move “casteist”. “Supreme Court is casteist, is there still doubt about it! It refused to give reservation to SC/ST, OBC in Indira Sawhney case citing the Constitution's limit of 50 per cent but reversed its statement when it came to EWS reservation,” tweeted Raj, who is the chairperson of the Unorganized Workers and Employees Congress.

Clarifying his stand, Raj said he was not opposing the reservation of economically weaker upper castes but was only mentioning the SC's vision in the matter of the Indira Sawhney case.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde said constitutional amendments are difficult to dislodge, but this one violated the basic structure of the Constitution. “There will be plenty who will see this as the courts of reservations changing its tide. There are many observations in the judgement which say reservations are not to be forever. Many of those who work on social justice will not be happy with this judgement,” added Hegde.

He noted that while arguing the case, Madan Gopal, who was the former director of the National Law School of India, stated that this case was the ‘ADM Jabalpur’ moment of social justice. ‘ADM Jabalpur’ was a decision of the Supreme Court during emergency, which took away the right to life.

DMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin said, “From the land of Tamil Nadu, which was instrumental in the first constitutional amendment to protect social justice, I request like-minded organizations to unite to make the voice of social justice resound throughout the country.”
“Today’s judgment should be considered a setback in the century-long struggle for social justice,” added Stalin.

Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) chief Thol. Thirumavalavan said the Supreme Court verdict is not for the poor in all castes.

"This is meant for the poor among the upper caste. In that case, how can this be construed as a judgment based on economic criteria?" he said.

He pointed out that two judges have argued that caste-based economic criteria for reservation negate equality.

“The judgment is against the principles of social justice. This is gross injustice,” added Thirumavalavan, who said his party would go in appeal against the verdict.

Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Saugata Roy lauded the Supreme Court’s verdict. However, the party refrained from commenting on the Supreme Court’s verdict.

The party’s chief spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Sukhendu Sekhar Ray said, "The apex court has given a verdict and we have nothing to say on it as of now.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party lauded the Supreme Court’s order, calling it a “big credit for PM Modi’s vision”. BJP leader CT Ravi said the verdict is yet another victory for Modi in his mission to provide social justice to India's poor.

In 2019, BSP had welcomed the constitutional amendment bill, which was then proposed by the Centre to provide 10 per cent reservation for the ‘economically weaker’ forward castes.

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