EWS Reservations: Argument MatrixEWS Reservation
Over 7 days, A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court heard arguments supporting and opposing reservations for ‘economically weaker sections’ (EWS) in September 2022. Those challenging the reservations argued that it excluded and discriminated against Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes. They also argued that it violated the basic structure of the Constitution of India, 1950 by exceeding the 50% limit on reservations, laid down in Indra Sawhney v Union of India (1992) and later inserted in the Constitution.
The Union of India, the main party supporting the reservations, argued that the 50% limit could be exceeded in exceptional circumstances. This includes alleviating widespread poverty for individuals who are not already benefitting from reservations—the stated aim of EWS reservations. In this post, we break down all the arguments made during the hearings.
In January 2019, Parliament enacted the Constitution (103rd) Amendment which allowed states to provide up to 10% reservations for ‘economically weaker sections’ (EWS) in society in addition to existing reservations. Unlike other existing reservation schemes, EWS reservations are based solely on economic criteria and do not account for other social or political factors. The Amendment also excludes classes of people who are already benefitting from other reservations, from being a beneficiary of EWS reservations. This includes Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes.
Challenges to the Amendment were filed at the Supreme Court only days after it was enacted. The Court decided to refer the case to a 5-Judge Constitution Bench in August 2020. A Constitution Bench led by CJI U.U. Lalit finally began hearing arguments in the case on September 13th, 2022. The arguments from both sides concluded on September 27th and the Bench reserved its Judgment.