Introducing reservations for economically weaker sections in admissions and government jobs is permissible but excluding SCs, STs and OBCs as they enjoy pre-existing benefits is to heap fresh injustice, the Supreme Court said in its minority verdict on Monday, striking down the 103rd Constitution amendment.
While justices Dinesh Maheshwari, Bela M Trivedi and J B Pardiwala upheld the law, Justice S Ravindra Bhat along with Chief Justice U U Lalit shot down the same in their minority view. The judges, part of a five-judge Constitution bench, read four separate judgments for over 35 minutes in the courtroom.
The Supreme Court by a majority view of 3:2 provided 10 per cent reservation to people belonging to the economically weaker sections (EWS) in admissions and government jobs, and said the quota does not violate the basic structure of the Constitution.
Justice Bhat, who authored a 100-page verdict for himself and Chief Justice Lalit, said the exclusionary clause operates in an utterly arbitrary manner as the exclusion operates against the socially disadvantaged classes and castes, absolutely, by confining them within their allocated reservation quotas.
The total and absolute exclusion of constitutionally recognised backward classes of citizens, and more acutely, Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) communities, is nothing but discrimination which reaches to the level of undermining and destroying the equality code and particularly, the principle of non-discrimination, he said.
"Introducing the economic basis for reservation as a new criterion, is permissible. Yet, the 'othering' of socially and educationally disadvantaged classes -- including SCs/STs/OBCs -- by excluding them from this new reservation on the ground that they enjoy pre-existing benefits, is to heap fresh injustice based on past disability," Justice Bhat said.
He, in the minority view, also said that the impugned amendment and the classification it creates, is arbitrary, and results in hostile discrimination of the poorest sections of society that are socially and educationally backward, and/or subjected to caste discrimination.
Chief Justice Lalit concurred with Justice Bhat’s view.
The bench headed by Chief Justice Lalit pronounced four separate verdicts on 40 petitions challenging the validity of the 103rd Constitution amendment promulgated by the Centre in 2019.
The top court heard as many as 40 petitions and most of the pleas, including the lead one filed by 'Janhit Abhiyan' in 2019, challenging the validity of the Constitution Amendment (103rd) Act, 2019.