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Petition filed by Congress worker Tehseen Poonawalla says constitutional amendment to provide quota for economically poor violates Indra Sawhney verdict

The Supreme Court, on Friday (February 8), issued another notice to the Centre seeking its response to a petition challenging the recent constitution amendment that paves the way for a 10 per cent quota in government jobs and educational institutions on the basis of economic backwardness.

The latest notice, issued by a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, has been issued on a petition filed by Congress worker Tehseen Poonawalla. The petition claims that the amendment allows the Centre to breach the Supreme Court mandated 50 per cent cap on reservations and also violates the basic structure doctrine by expanding quota benefits on grounds of economic backwardness.

It is to be noted that the Supreme Court, through its landmark verdicts in the Indra Sawhney and Kesavananda Bharati cases had laid out clear terms for granting reservations – chief among these criteria were that reservations have to be capped at 50 per cent and that economic backwardness cannot be the sole benchmark for giving reservation benefits.

Poonawalla’s isn’t the only petition in the Supreme Court that has challenged the 10 per cent quota for economically backward sections (EWS). On January 25, the apex court had issued notice to the Centre on another batch of petitions that have challenged the newly carved out reservation.

However, the court has, so far, not granted a stay on the implementation of the EWS quota which is seen by many as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s last ditch effort to appease the upper castes – the main beneficiaries of this new reservation category – ahead of the Lok Sabha polls due in April-May. It is pertinent to note that aside from the Centre, several BJP-ruled states have also brought similar legislations in their respective assemblies to operationalise the quota for economically poor.

Besides the petitions now in the Supreme Court, a similar plea has also been filed by the DMK in the Madras High Court challenging the amendments.

—India Legal Bureau

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