Supreme Court judgement for EWS reservations in India

The term Economically Weaker Section (EWS) in India refers to a category of persons with an annual family income of less than Rs 8 lakh and which does not come under the purview of any of the other categories such as SC, ST or OBC in the whole of India or MBC in Tamil Nadu.

The reservation provided to EWS has been a controversial topic. However, in its recent judgement, the Supreme Court has supported and maintained the reservation of Economically Weaker Sections in India.

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Here is an article about the recent Supreme Court judgement related to the Economically Weaker Section of society.

How the Provision for Reservation of EWS Came to the Indian Constitution?

In January 2019, the Parliament of India amended the Indian Constitution to include a 10% reservation in favour of the General category in government posts as well as education in India. On January 7, 2019, the Union Council of Ministers agreed to the 10% reservation for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) of the General category in government positions and educational institutions for members.

Later on January 8, 2019, the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019, was passed by the Lok Sabha, introducing the 103rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution. 326 members of the Lok Sabha supported the bill, casting 323 votes in favour and just 3 votes against it. Further, the Rajya Sabha passed the bill on January 10, 2019, with 165 votes in favour and 7 votes against it.

On January 12, 2019, the then President, Ram Nath Kovind, agreed to the bill. After the Presidential assent, it was published in the gazette on the same day. And the bill came into force on January 14, 2019, amending Article 15(6) and Article 16(6) of the Indian Constitution.

Eligibility to Claim EWS Quota

The following conditions must be fulfilled to be eligible for receiving the benefit of reservation provided to EWS under the Constitution of India:

  1. A person should belong to the General category and not Schedule Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) or Other Backward Classes (OBC).
  2. The annual income of the family should not exceed Rs 8 lakhs.
  3. The family should not own:
    • 5 acres or above of agricultural land
    • 1000 sq ft or more of a residential area
    • 100 sq yards or more of residential plots registered in municipalities
    • 200 square yards or more of residential plots outside the notified municipalities

The word family here refers to the persons claiming the benefit of the reservation, their parents, siblings, children under the age of 18 and their spouses.

Judgement Concerning Reservation of EWS in India

After the enforcement of the 103rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution, there have been distinct views on this subject. For challenging the constitutional validity of the 103rd Amendment of the Indian Constitution, more than 20 petitions were brought to the Supreme Court on the grounds that it violates the basic feature of the Constitution of India as well as the right to equality as provided under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.

On August 5, 2020, the court decided to refer this case to the Constitution Bench of five judges. The five-judge bench comprising former Chief Justice of India UU Lalit, Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, S Ravindra Bhat, Bela M Trivedi and JB Pardiwala reserved the judgement of the Janhit Abhiyan vs Union of India on November 7, 2022.

These were the issues suggested by the Attorney General of India (representing the respondents):

  1. Whether the 103rd Constitutional Amendment can be said to breach the basic structure of the Constitution by permitting the State to make special provisions, including reservation, based on economic criteria?
  2. Whether the 103rd Constitutional Amendment can be said to breach the basic structure of the Constitution by permitting the State to make special provisions in relation to admission to private unaided institutions?
  3. Whether the 103rd Constitutional Amendment can be said to breach the basic structure of the Constitution in excluding the SEBCs/OBCs/SCs/STs from the scope of EWS reservation?

The Bench delivered its judgement on November 7, 2022, upholding the reservation for EWS by a 3:2 majority. Bela Trivedi, JB Pardiwala, and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari being in the majority. Justice S Ravindra Bhat and CJI UU Lalit were in the minority.

Conclusion

Economically Weaker Section (EWS) in India refers to persons with an annual family income of less than Rs 8 lakh. Recently, the Supreme Court has passed its judgement by a 3:2 majority, thereby maintaining the 10% reservation for EWS as non-violative of the Fundamental Right to equality provided by Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.

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Subhashini Parihar
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