While a challenge to the amendment bill is pending before the top court, this is the first petition before the court after the bill received presidential nod on 12 January. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
While a challenge to the amendment bill is pending before the top court, this is the first petition before the court after the bill received presidential nod on 12 January. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Tehseen Poonawallah moves Supreme Court challenging quota law

  • Poonawalla's challenge is based on the claim that the constitutional amendment violates the law laid down by the Supreme Court
  • The passage of the bill is significant as it comes ahead of the Lok Sabha elections due by May

New Delhi: Political activist Tehseen Poonawalla moved the Supreme Court on Tuesday, challenging legislation granting 10% reservation for economically weaker sections of the general category.

While a challenge to the amendment bill is pending before the top court, this is the first petition before the court after the bill received presidential nod on 12 January. The petition is yet to be listed for hearing.

The passage of the bill is significant as it comes ahead of the Lok Sabha elections due by May.

Poonawalla's challenge is based on the claim that the constitutional amendment violates the law laid down by the Supreme Court—the 1992 case of Indira Sawhney vs Union of India, where a constitution bench had specifically stated that economic criteria cannot be the sole basis for reservations under the Constitution.

"I will be challenging the 103rd Constitutional Amendment. I am not a member nor do I hold any post in any political party or political organisation. I believe this amendment is against the basic structure of our Constitution," a tweet from Poonawalla's account said on Tuesday.

Another petition challenging the quota bill has been filed by Youth for Equality, an organization opposing caste-based reservations. Its president, Kaushal Kant Mishra, claimed that the amendment violates several basic features of the Constitution.

The amendment, which introduced Articles 15(6) and 16(6) into the Constitution, violates the equality code of the Constitution and was in “breach of the basic structure of the Constitution," Mishra added.

Mishra's petition also raised questions on the use of the expression “economically weaker sections" as this remains undefined under the amendment. This is left to be notified by the states, which is “arbitrary and unworkable", said the petitioners.

On 10 January, the Rajya Sabha passed the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019, with the opposition divided over its stance on the item of legislation. The quota bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha by 165 votes, more than two-thirds the majority of the House. Seven members voted against it.

The Lok Sabha had passed the bill on 9 January. The bill became a law after the president’s assent on 12 January.

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