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SC seeks States’ views on 50% cap on quota

Topics Covered: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

SC seeks States’ views on 50% cap on quota:


Context:

The Supreme Court has decided to examine whether the Indira Sawhney verdict of 1992 needs a relook.

What’s the issue?

In 1992, the Supreme Court fixed reservation for the marginalised and the poor in government jobs and educational institutions at 50%, except in “extraordinary circumstances”.

However, over the years, several States, such as Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, have crossed the Rubicon and passed laws which allow reservation shooting over 60%.

  • Recently, a five-judge Bench set up to hear the challenge to the Maratha quota law, decided not to confine the question of reservation spilling over the 50% limit to just Maharashtra.
  • The Bench expanded the ambit of the case by making other States party and inviting them to make their stand clear on the question of whether reservation should continue to remain within the 50% boundary or not.

Why 50%?

The Other Backward Classes, as identified by the Mandal Commission, make up about 52% of India’s population according to the 1931 Census, the last enumeration of castes in the country. The court, however, did not deal with the question of population while ruling that although reservation was fine, it must be capped.

Tamilnadu’s case:

The state’s Assembly passed the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State) Act, 1993 to keep its reservation limit intact at 69%.

  • The law was subsequently included into the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution through the 76th Constitution Amendment passed by Parliament in 1994.

Overview of Maratha Quota law:

The Bombay High Court had, in June 2019, reduced the quantum of reservation for Marathas from the 16% recommended by the Gaikwad Commission to 12% in education and 13% in employment.

  • With the implementation of the Maharashtra law, the vertical quota in the state could go up to 68% which was earlier 52% before the passing of the law. This aspect will also come under question.
  • Since the Indra Sawhney verdict gives a pass to breach of the 50% quota rule only in exceptional circumstances, the court will have to test if the Maharashtra law qualifies to be an exception.

How does the Maratha reservation relate to the Indra Sawhney case?

  1. Based on the 102nd Amendment to the Constitution, which gives the President powers to notify backward classes, the court will have to look into whether states have similar powers.
  2. Also, since this power flows from the Constitution, whether the President is still required to comply with the criteria set by the Supreme Court in the Mandal case.
  3. The relevance of the Indra Sawhney criteria is also under question in another case in which the validity of the 103rd Amendment has been challenged. The 103rd Amendment, passed in 2019, provides for 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the economically weaker section in the unreserved category.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act.
  2. 102 CAA- overview.
  3. About Maratha Quota law.
  4. What is 9th schedule of the Indian Constitution.
  5. Indira Sawhney Judgment.

Mains Link:

Recently, a five-judge Bench set up to hear the challenge to the Maratha quota law, decided not to confine the question of reservation spilling over the 50% limit to just Maharashtra. Discuss the implications of this move.

Sources: the Hindu.