NEW DELHI: Justifying 10% quota for Economically Weaker Sections belonging to general class, the Centre on Wednesday contended that it is a constitutional obligation to extend helping hands to the poor and it is duty of the government to fulfil their aspirations who are not getting opportunity because of their economic status.
Appearing before a constitution bench of Chief Justice UU Lalit, Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, S Ravindra Bhat, Bela M Trivedi and J B Pardiwala, attorney general KK Venugopal and solicitor general Tushar Mehta said 103rd constitutional amendment was valid and it was done in furtherance of Article 46 which says the state shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people .
Continuing with his submission, Venugopal submitted that people belonging to SCs/STs/ OBCs should not complain about the EWS quota as it would nor affect them and their piece of cake in the reservation would remain intact. He said 10% quota for EWS will be carved out of remaining 50% which is unreserved. He further said around 5.8 crore people from the general class are below the poverty line and 35% of the total general class are landless people and EWS quota was meant for them. He said many children of poor from the general class are forced to work in field and factory and they do not go to school due to poverty and the the government was bound to help them out .
The solicitor general said amendment was brought to fulfil the aspirations of poor people and it can be tested only on the ground that it destroys the basic structure of the Constitution itself. “In other words, if such an amendment permitted to stand, the very foundational edifice of the Constitution would fall,” Mehta said.
He contended that quantitative limit of 50% reservation is not inviolable or inflexible limit and said “Even after 50% limit was stipulated by 81st Amendment Act which was tested in M. Nagaraj’s case, the constitution bench in the said case held that the reservation should not be excessive clearly holding that 50% limit is neither inflexible nor a basic structure”.
Opposing the plea of petitioners who contended that 50% cap on reservation was part of basic structure of the Constitution which cannot be breached, the solicitor general said, “Any proposition in the Constitution which is flexible can never be a basic structure so as to deprive an otherwise competent Parliament to take affirmative action by amending Constitution by treating poorest of the poor as a separate class”. The government referred to findings of Sinho Commission report of 2010 which became basis of granting EWS reservation and said as per it, OBCs had higher land holding in comparison to general class whose 35% population are landless and 20% are illiterate.