EWS Reservations Day #3: (Sr. Advs. P. Wilson and Salman Khurshid): Mr. Khurshid Suggests Alternatives to Reservation

EWS Reservation

On September 14th, 2022, a Constitution Bench led by CJI U.U Lalit comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, Ravindra Bhat, Bela Trivedi, and J.B. Pardiwala continued hearing the challenge to reservations provided to economically weaker sections of society (EWS reservations). The Constitution (103rd) Amendment Act, 2019 (the Amendment) allows states to provide reservations solely on the basis of economic criteria. 

On September 13th, the Bench heard arguments from Dr. Mohan Gopal, Senior Advocates Meenakshi Arora, and Sanjay Parikh all of whom represented petitioners challenging the Amendment. 

Today, the Court continued to hear arguments for the petitioners from Senior Advocates Salman Khurshid and P. Wilson. Mr. Khurshid argued that other kinds of affirmative action could be considered for the upliftment of economically weaker sections besides reservations. Mr. WIlson repeated some of the arguments made by other petitioners. 

Mr. Khurshid: Alternatives to Reservation can be Considered

Mr. Khurshid stated that reservations existed within the larger circle of affirmative action and other schemes or policies can be put in place to address economic disadvantages instead. While no one can be excluded through affirmative action schemes, he argued other factors can be considered. 

The example of Israel was used, where a test was conducted in four universities during admissions. Applicants who dealt with disadvantages luke sub-par housing and financial difficulties were given preference in admissions. Mr. Khurshid said the universities saw a rise in diversity. 

Mr. Wilson Repeats Arguments of Other Lawyers

Mr. Wilson attempted to make several points that were similar to the submissions of lawyers that argued before him. He referred to Indra Sawhney v Union of India (1992) and the Gujarat High Court’s Judgment in Dayaram Verma v State of Gujarat (2016), both of which held that reservations could not be granted solely on the basis of economic criteria. He further argued that the reservations broke the 50% threshold for reserved seats established in Indra Sawhney. 

Mr. Wilson then repeated the arguments made by Sr. Adv. Ravivarma Kumar earlier today. He argued that reservations were meant to address historic injustice and economic criteria would not serve as a valid justification for reservations. Further, he repeated Prof. Kumars argument that the Amendment gives states wide powers to identify economically weaker sections.

Justice Bhat asked Mr. Wilson to either provide context to the Judgment extracts he was reciting to the Bench or provide a note with the relevant extracts. Chief Justice Lalit added to Justice Bhat’s criticism, asking Mr. Wilson to present his views as well instead of referring to paragraphs in past Judgments. 

Mr. Wilson will continue his arguments tomorrow, on September 15th, 2022.