The Madras High Court ordered notice to the Central government on the Constitutional amendment providing 10% reservation to “economically weaker” upper castes. The Centre will have to reply to the notice by February 18.
A division bench comprising Justice S Manikumar and Justice Subramonium Prasad heard the petition filed by Rajya Sabha MP and DMK organising secretary RS Bharathi challenging the 10% quota and seeking to quash the constitutional amendment.
Appearing for the petitioner RS Bharathi, senior advocate P Wilson argued that the Supreme Court has already observed that any reservation on the basis of economic backwardness is against social justice. He pointed out that economic backwardness is not a permanent situation and therefore having it as a criterion for reservation is wrong.
As per the constitutional amendment, the government can make laws for reservation for economically weaker sections as well as senior citizens. The Cabinet has said that the definition of an economically weaker section would be any family that earns less than Rs 8 lakh per annum. However, Bharathi’s counsel submitted that 97% of the country earns less than Rs 8 lakh per year. He also argued that the constitutional amendments were rushed through Parliament.
G Rajagopal, the additional solicitor general, who appeared for the Union government argued that RS Bharathi had no locus standi as he was not personally affected by the amendments. He further opposed the admission of the petition arguing that RS Bharathi, who is an MP and a member of a political party, had filed it for political gain. However, Wilson countered Rajagopal stating being an MP doesn’t disqualify one from challenging the constitutional amendments.
The High Court admitted the case and posted it for hearing on February 18.
The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed in both Houses of Parliament in January, paving the way for 10% reservation in education and jobs to economically weaker sections in the general category. The 10% quota is over and above the existing cap of 50% reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Castes.
Tamil Nadu is the only state that has 69% reservation for socially disadvantaged groups after passing a law that was included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.