New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday decided not to stay operation of the 10% quota legislation, even as it issued notice to the Centre, asking it to reply within four weeks on various petitions challenging the validity of the Constitutional Amendment Act which paved the way for the concession for the upper caste poor. This decision not to stay implementation of reservation helps the Modi government exploit the concession to influence the upper caste votes in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The notice was issued by a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna.
Even in the hearing after the government files its reply, the court cannot decide on the matter before elections. For this, it will have to set up a Constitution Bench of more than nine judges to rule on the constitutionality of reservation on the basis of the economic criteria. The hurdle was created by the ruling of a 9-judge Bench in 1992 in the Indira Sawhney case, which said that “economic criteria cannot be the sole basis for reservation under the Constitution.”
The reservation brought through a Constitutional amendment, backed by most parties in both Houses of Parliament, also takes the total quota beyond the cap of 50% placed by the Supreme Court in 2006. The NGO’s PIL says the Constitution amendment violates the “basic structure” of the Constitution since it not only breaches the 50% quota fixed by the top court but also violates its ruling that the economic criteria cannot be the sole basis of reservation.
The PIL also objects to the amendment on the ground that it excludes the economically weaker sections of SCs/STs and OBCs from the benefit; this is seen to be discriminatory, which is not permitted under the Constitution. All educational institutes and universities have been already directed by the Centre to implement the 10 per cent quota in the upcoming educational year. In fact, the government issued on Thursday an office memorandum to implement the reservation order.