SC fixes issues for adjudication on pleas challenging Centre's 10% EWS quota in admissions & jobs

It will also decide whether the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act breached the doctrine of basic structure of the Constitution by allowing the state to make such special provisions

PTIUpdated: Thursday, September 08, 2022, 02:31 PM IST
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Supreme Court of India | PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday fixed three broad issues for adjudication arising from the pleas challenging the Centre's decision to grant 10 per cent reservation to econimically weaker sections (EWS) in admissions and jobs.

It will also decide whether the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act breached the doctrine of basic structure of the Constitution by allowing the state to make such special provisions.

A five judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit said the three issues suggested by Attorney General K K Venugopal for the decision "broadly" covered all the aspects relating to the petitions on the constitutional validity of the decision to grant the reservation.

"Whether the 103rd Constitution amendment Act 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," read the first issue framed.

The second legal question was on whether the Constitution amendment could be said to breach the basic structure by permitting the state to make special provisions in relation to admissions to private unaided institutions.

"Whether the 103rd Constitution 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 third issue, to be adjudicated upon by the bench, read.

Doctrine of basic structure

The doctrine of basic structure was propounded by the top court in 1973 while deciding the Keshavananda Bharati case. It was held that Parliament could not amend every bit of the Constitution, and aspects such as rule of law, separation of powers and judicial freedom formed part of the "basic structure" of the Constitution and hence, could not be amended.

The bench, also comprising justices Dinesh Maheshwari, S Ravindra Bhat, Bela M Trivedi and J B Pardiwala, took note of the issues framed by several counsels and then decided to take up the three questions framed by topmost law officer Venugopal as core ones to be decided.

"In keeping with the suggestion made last time, learned counsel, appearing for various parties submitted issues. The issues suggested by the AG are as follows...First three issues suggested by the attorney general are the issues which arise in the matter," the bench said, adding that hearing would commence on September 13 as per schedule.

Other grievances

With regard to the remaining issues suggested by other lawyers, it said they were of the nature of submissions connected to the propositions emerging from questions suggested by the attorney general.

The CJI, speaking for the bench, asked the intervenors, including states like Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Maharashtra, to file their written submissions in the case and assured them that they will also be allowed to argue provided there is no repetition of arguments.

The bench, on September 6, had made clear that it would commence hearing from September 13 on the batch of 40 petitions after deciding the issues for its adjudication and passing the directions to ensure a smooth hearing.

It was told that the lawyers for the parties would need 18 hours in all to argue. Most of the petitions, including the lead one filed by 'Janhit Abhiyan' in 2019, challenge the validity of the Constitution Amendment (103rd) Act 2019, which provides for quota for EWS-category candidates.

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