A division bench of the Madras high court on Monday issued notice to the Union government and sought its reply while hearing a petition moved by the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), challenging the 10% economic reservation.
After hearing the arguments, Justices S Manikumar and Subramoniam Prasad issued notice returnable by 18 February.
On Friday, the DMK’s Rajya Sabha member RS Bharathi had challenged the new 103rd Constitution Amendment Act providing for quota up to 10% for persons belonging to economically weaker sections.
The plea had contended that the amendment was a violation to the basic structure of the Constitution.
The petition pointed out that it is judicially recognized that “reservations are not poverty alleviation programmes."
It read: Therefore, essentially, the exception to the equality clause is only available to those communities which were ostracized for centuries in matters of education and employment. Economic criteria has been, however, used as a filter to exclude the ‘creamy layer’ i.e. persons belong to the backward classes but who are economically advanced.
“Application of economic criteria solely is not contemplated as an exception to the rule of equality and consequently to provide reservation solely on economic criteria offends the basic structure of the Constitution."
Reservation in Tamil Nadu is 69% due to the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and of appointments or posts in the Services under the State) Act, 1993, which is placed in the IX Schedule.
“However, the impugned amendments enable reservation to go up to 79% and the same are unconstitutional."
Earlier this month, a bill was introduced and passed by both the houses of Parliament for providing 10% reservation to economically weaker sections in the general category.
“Weaker section beneficiaries" include people earning less than Rs 8 lakh annually; owning less than 5 hectares of agricultural land, residential property of less than 1,000 sq. ft and a residential plot less than 109 square yards in a notified municipality, or 209 square yards in a non-notified municipality.
Following the assent by President Ram Nath Kovind, the constitutional provision came into effect last week.
“In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (2) of section 1 of the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019, the central government hereby appoints January 14 as the date on which the provision of the said Act shall come into force," a gazette notification by the ministry of social justice and empowerment read.
The Youth for Equality, an organization opposing caste-based reservations, has moved the Supreme Court challenging the quota bill.