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Final call on 10% EWS quota lies with states, can’t enforce it, Modi govt tells SC

The central govt made the submission in an affidavit filed in response to a plea seeking the implementation of the EWS quota in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

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New Delhi: The decision to implement the 10 per cent quota for economically weaker sections (EWS) in states is a call that rests with the individual regional legislatures, the Modi government has told the Supreme Court.

The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is a respondent in a petition seeking the implementation of the quota in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, where existing reservations already account for nearly 70 per cent of government jobs and school slots. It made the submission in an affidavit, which ThePrint has accessed.

The central government’s reply means that the quota, announced last year, won’t be applicable in states unless it’s individually ratified by the local administration.

“Whether or not [to] provide reservation to EWS of society for appointment in state government jobs and for admission to state government educational institutions as per the newly inserted provisions of Article 15 (6) and Article 16 (6) of the Constitution is to be decided by the concerned state government,” the Modi government says in the affidavit.

“The Department of Social Justice has no role in deciding the reservation policy of a state government.”

The 103rd Constitution Amendment Act 2019 inserted Article 15 (6) and Article 16 (6) in the Constitution to allow reservation for the poor among the general category. Since this is a central law on subjects (employment, education) in the concurrent list (subjects on which states and the central government both have jurisdiction), the state governments need to ratify it before it is adopted locally. 

The EWS quota applies to household with an annual income of less than Rs 8 lakh. Beneficiaries should not own more than 5 acres of agricultural land, residential flat with an area of 1,000 sq ft and above, and residential plots of 100 yards and above in notified areas, and 200 yards and above in non-notified municipalities. 

Also Read: Modi govt rules out age relaxation in upper caste quota, says no need for it

The petition

The petition in the case was filed in August 2019 by Supreme Court lawyer G.S. Mani. It seeks the Supreme Court’s intervention to implement the 10 per cent EWS quota in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka without disrupting the existing reservation framework, which covers the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), backward classes (BC) and most backward classes (MBC).

According to the plea, Tamil Nadu reserves 69 per cent of its jobs and education seats for SCs, STs, BCs and MBCs, while the number stands at 70 per cent in Karnataka.

It describes local political opposition to the quota in Tamil Nadu as motivated, and argues that the Supreme Court-set 50 per cent ceiling for caste-based reservation was not a directive.

“The ceiling of 50 per cent vertical reservation for SC, ST and BC is a suggestion or discussion but not a mandatory direction to the central or state to adopt,” the plea said, adding that all the other states had implemented the quota.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s affidavit came after a Supreme Court bench of Justices S.A. Bobde and B.R. Gavai asked the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments to reply to the plea. The case is expected to come up for hearing later this month. The state governments are yet to file their replies.

Also Read: Why upper castes polish shoes or sweep roads when protesting quota for Dalits and OBCs


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