Writ Petition Summary

EWS Reservation

Plain English Petition and Counter Affidavit

The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act introduces reservations for economically weaker sections. The constitutionality of the Act is under challenge before the Supreme Court. Youth for Equality (the petitioner), filed a writ petition on 10th January and the government replied in its counter-affidavit on 12th March.


The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act

The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act inserts Articles 15(6) and 16(6) in the Constitution. These provide up to 10% reservation to economically weaker sections other than backward classes, schedules castes and scheduled tribes in higher educational institutions and initial recruitment in government posts. The reservations also apply to private unaided institutions except minority educational institutions.


The Petition’s Challenge 

The petition challenges the constitutional validity of the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act on the grounds that it is manifestly arbitrary, violates equality and alters the basic structure of the Constitution.

The Petition contends that:

  1. Economic criteria cannot be the sole basis for reservation. This is the law laid down by the Constitution Bench in Indra Sawhney v Union of India.
  2. Equality is guaranteed to all under the Constitution. However, this Act unjustly excludes OBCs, SCs and STs. The benefits of caste-based reservation are availed only by the rich OBCs, SCs and STs while the deprivation of the poor among these communities continues. Thus, economic reservation cannot be limited to general categories
  3. The Supreme Court has consistently held that reservations must not exceed 50%. In M Nagaraj v Union of India, the Supreme Court Constitution Bench held that the 50% ceiling limit on reservation is a crucial requirement of equality and the basic structure of the Constitution. This Act leads to the crossing of the 50% limit.
  4. Imposing reservations on unaided institutions is manifestly arbitrary. Unaided institutions are not financed by the State and they cannot be compelled to do the State’s bidding. Article 14 is a protection against manifestly arbitrary State action.


Furthermore, the petition contends that:

  1. ‘Economically weaker sections’ is undefined. This gives the State unregulated powers in deciding who would benefit from the reservations introduced. It also threatens the protections under Articles 15(1) and 16(2) of the Constitution.
  2. The criteria of economic backwardness should have been applied horizontally across all castes. This would have ensured that reservation does not exceed the 50% ceiling limit.
  3. It is established law that some quantitative exercise must be undertaken before imposing reservations. No such exercise was undertaken before setting the 10% provision. This is manifestly arbitrary.