Apparently seeking to allay concerns that the quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) may cut into the reservation for backward classes or reduce seats available in general category, the Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it had approved creation of 2,14,766 additional seats in central educational institutions so that that respective quota for other categories are not affected.
The Ministry of Social Justice said this in an affidavit filed before the five-judge Constitution bench, presided by Chief Justice of India U U Lalit, which wrapped up arguments on petitions challenging the Constitution 103rd amendment introducing the 10-per cent EWS quota in jobs and admissions.
The government said that “contemporaneously with the constitutional amendment”, a decision was taken to ensure that seats available to candidates from reserved category and open category are “not impacted in absolute numbers”. As part of this, the government stated in its affidavit, the Department of Higher Education issued orders on January 17, 2019 to all central educational institutions to increase admission intake “in all branches of study” to provide for 10-per cent reservations for EWS category.
At the same time, the government submitted, it protected proportionate reservation for candidates from SC/ST/OBC categories, as also “not reducing seat availability in the general category (in absolute numbers) in 2018-19”.
The affidavit stated that “as per the calculations done in this regard, in order to provide 10% reservation for the economically weaker sections, without adversely impacting the proportionate reservations to SC/ST and OBC categories and not reducing the seat availability for the general category in absolute numbers, as compared to admissions made in 2018-19, the total increase in intake has to be increased by approximately 25%” This is “over and above the intake in 2018-19”, it noted.
The government said that “a total of 2,14,766 additional seats were approved to be created in the central educational institutions; and an expenditure of Rs 4,315.15 crore was approved to be incurred to improve the infrastructure in higher educational institutions”.
The petitioners told the bench — it also comprised Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, S Ravindra Bhat, Bela M Trivedi and J B Pardiwala — that the Centre had not explained satisfactorily the nexus between reservation and poverty, and why the EWS category could not be provided with benefits other than reservation.
They also contended that providing reservation as a welfare measure instead of to overcome structural inequities goes against the basic structure of the Constitution.