- Validity of 10% quota for economically weak to be examined by top court
- Judges will hear a batch of petitions challenging the decision
- PM Modi calls the quota a big step towards social justice
The validity of the government's 10 per cent quota for the economically weak in jobs and education will be examined by the Supreme Court, which today sent notice to the centre but did not put the scheme on hold. The court's decision means the quota is unlikely to be either scrapped or kept on hold before the national election due by May.
The centre has to get back to the Supreme Court within three weeks on the move that was introduced as a constitutional amendment, passed in parliament and enacted in a matter of days.
The judges including Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi will hear a batch of petitions challenging the decision, which takes the total quotas beyond the 50 per cent cap set by the Supreme Court. Under the new law, those who earn less than Rs 8 lakh a year and have less than five acre land qualify for the quota.
The petitions say the top court's Mandal Commission verdict in 1992 had "specifically stated that the economic criteria cannot be the sole basis for reservation under the Constitution."
They also argue that in 2006, the court said quota cannot exceed 50 per cent, so the new 10 per cent quota is "unconstitutional and should be struck down".
But the government has brushed aside this criticism and sought to make a distinction between economic and social reservation. The Supreme Court's limit is for social reservation, the government says. Officials also point out that in July 2010, the court allowed states to exceed that limit if they had solid scientific data to justify the increase. Tamil Nadu, for instance, has 69 per cent reservation in educational institutions and jobs.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls the quota a big step towards social justice. "Annaya ki bhavna khatam ho (the sense of injustice should end). We wanted equality of opportunity," he said at a rally in Maharashtra.