SC stays Kerala HC proceedings on plea against EWS quota

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New Delhi, September 24

The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the proceedings before the Kerala High Court on a petition challenging the Centre’s decision to grant 10 per cent quota in government jobs and admissions to educational institutions to candidates belonging to the economically weaker sections.

Acting on the Centre’s plea seeking transfer of the case from the high court to the top court, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana issued notice to Nujaim PK—the petitioner before the high court.

The top court had in August last year referred petitions on the issue to a five-judge Constitution Bench. However, the EWS quota is already operational as there is no stay on it.

Friday’s order came after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought stay on the proceedings before the high court

The transfer of the aforesaid petition would enable all these cases to be clubbed and heard together and avoid possibility of inconsistent orders by different courts, it said, adding, the transfer of petition was necessary because certain petitions on the issue were already pending before the top court.

There are around 20 petitions pending against the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019 which paved the way for grant of reservation to EWS candidates of general category. The petitioners have sought quashing of the law on the ground that backwardness for the purpose of reservation cannot be defined by “economic status alone”.

The law talks about a maximum of 10% of seats/posts in addition to the existing reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs, taking total reservation to 59%, much beyond the 50% ceiling fixed by the Supreme Court in the Indra Shawney case popularly known as Mandal Case. It also extends reservation to private aided and unaided educational institutions.

The PILs – including those filed by Youth for Equality and Tehseen Poonawala – challenged its validity, contending it violated basic structure of the Constitution.

The Centre has defended EWS quota, saying it intended to uplift around 200 million people who were below the poverty line even after over 70 years of Independence. Nobody can say such people should not be given a “helping hand” to uplift them, Attorney General KK Venugopal had submitted.

Another Bench of the top court led by Justice DY Chandrachud set aside a Madras High Court direction that said reservation for EWS candidates in NEET All India Quota medical seats can be implemented only with the approval of the Supreme Court.

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