Economics, exclusion – The SC verdict on the EWS Quota | 8th November 2022 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the recent Supreme Court ruling that declared the 10% EWS Reservation to be constitutional and valid.

Relevance:

  • GS2: Indian Constitution—Amendments, Significant Provisions and Basic Structure; Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes; Prelims

What's the crux of the article?

  • In 2019, the government amended the Indian Constitution by the 103rd CA Act to include the EWS quota.
  • The provision of the EWS quota was added in clause 6 of Article 15 and Article 16 of the constitution.
  • This clause provides reservation to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in the educational (both government & private, excluding minority institutions) institutions and public jobs.
  • There were lots of petitions filed against this amendment to review its constitutionality.
  • As a result, the Constitutional Bench of the SC reviewed it and declared it was constitutional by a 3:2 margin.

Analysis:

  • This ruling will have a long term impact on the SC’s interpretation of valid affirmative actions.
  • This is the first that SC accepted economic criteria as a basis of reservation. In Indra Sawhney (1992) the SC struck down a provision (by notification & not by amending Constitution) for 10% reservation for economically backward sections introduced by the Congress regime.
  • The SC also broke the 50% upper limit set in the same case.

Who are EWS?

  • The economically weaker section (EWS) is the section of the society in India that belongs to the un-reserved category and has an annual family income of less than 8 lakh rupees.
  • This category includes people that do not belong to the caste categories of ST/SC/OBC who already enjoy the benefits of reservation.

Indra Sawhney (1992) (Mandal Commission case):

  • In this case, the SC set important conditions regarding the reservation policies in India.
  • The SC upheld the 27% quota for backward classes
  • struck down 10% reservation for economically backward classes among the higher castes.
  • imposed the ceiling of 50% on total reservation.
  • introduced ‘creamy layer’ for OBC.

Way Forward:

  • This is a paradigm-shifting change in the affirmative action policies of the government.
  • The Government should consider both opening up the EWS quota to all communities and keeping the income criterion much lower than the ceiling, perhaps at the same level as the income tax slab, to identify the ‘creamy layer’ so that some poorer sections of communities, if they are crowded out on the OBC or SC/ST merit list, could still avail of some residual benefits under the EWS scheme.



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