Writ Petition

Janhit Abhiyan VS Union of India

calendar23 Oct, 2023
timeReading Time: 7 Minutes
Janhit Abhiyan V. Union of India

Citation: Writ Petition (Civil) No. 128 of 2019

Court: Supreme Court of India

Janhit Abhiyan vs Union of India is a landmark case in Indian constitutional law that deals with the reservation of seats in educational institutions and employment opportunities for economically weaker sections of the society. The case was heard by a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court of India comprising of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer. The case was brought before the Supreme Court after the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019 was passed by the Indian Parliament. The amendment introduced Articles 15(6) and 16(6) in the Constitution of India, which provide for a 10% reservation in educational institutions and employment opportunities for economically weaker sections of the society.

Several petitions were filed challenging the constitutional validity of the amendment and the reservation for economically weaker sections. The case raised several important legal and constitutional questions, including whether the reservation for economically weaker sections violates the 50% ceiling limit on reservations set by the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney case and whether the reservation violates the basic structure of the Constitution. The judgment in this case is significant as it clarifies the constitutional validity of the reservation for economically weaker sections and provides guidance on the implementation of the reservation system in India. The case highlights the importance of uplifting the economically weaker sections of the society and providing them with equal opportunities in education and employment while ensuring that the existing reservations for SCs, STs, and OBCs are not diluted.

Background

The Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019, introduced by the government, provided for 10% reservation for economically weaker sections (EWS) of the society in educational institutions and employment opportunities. The amendment introduced Articles 15(6) and 16(6) to the Constitution, which allowed the state to provide reservations for EWS in addition to the existing reservations for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

Several writ petitions were filed challenging the constitutional validity of the amendment, contending that it violated the basic structure of the Constitution, particularly the principle of equality and non-discrimination. The petitioners argued that the amendment was not a genuine effort to uplift the economically weaker sections but a political move to appease certain sections of the society before the general elections.

Issues

The main issues before the Supreme Court were:

  1. Constitutionality of the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019: The central issue in this case was the constitutional validity of the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019 which introduced Articles 15(6) and 16(6) in the Constitution of India. These articles provide for a 10% reservation in educational institutions and employment opportunities for economically weaker sections of the society.
  2. 50% Ceiling Limit on Reservations: The Supreme Court had set a ceiling limit of 50% on reservations for different categories such as SCs, STs, and OBCs in the famous Indra Sawhney case. One of the issues in this case was whether the reservation for economically weaker sections violates this 50% ceiling limit.
  3. Violation of Basic Structure: Another issue in this case was whether the reservation for economically weaker sections violates the basic structure of the Constitution. The petitioners argued that the reservation for economically weaker sections is a violation of the basic structure because it creates a new class of beneficiaries that is not based on any social or educational backwardness.
  4. Dilution of Existing Reservations: Another issue in this case was whether the reservation for economically weaker sections would dilute the existing reservations for SCs, STs, and OBCs. The petitioners argued that the reservation for economically weaker sections would lead to a reduction in the reservation for other categories, thereby diluting the benefits given to them.

Arguments

The petitioners argued that the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019, violated the basic structure of the Constitution, particularly the principle of equality and non-discrimination. They contended that the amendment was a political move by the government to appease certain sections of the society before the general elections and did not genuinely aim to uplift the economically weaker sections.

The petitioners also argued that the 10% reservation for economically weaker sections was not justified and reasonable as it would exceed the 50% reservation limit set by the Supreme Court[1] in the Indra Sawhney case. They contended that the amendment would lead to the dilution of existing reservations for SCs, STs, and OBCs.

The respondents, on the other hand, argued that the amendment was a genuine effort to uplift the economically weaker sections and did not violate the basic structure of the Constitution. They contended that the amendment did not violate the principle of equality and non-discrimination as it provided reservation to a section of the society that was previously unreserved. They also argued that the 10% reservation for economically weaker sections was justified and reasonable as it aimed to uplift a section of the society that was economically disadvantaged and had not benefited from existing reservations.

Petitioner’s Arguments

  • The Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019 and the reservation for economically weaker sections (EWS) violated the basic structure of the Constitution of India.
  • The reservation for EWS would take away the opportunities of other sections of society who were already struggling to gain admission or employment.
  • The reservation for EWS was not based on any empirical data or research and was purely a political move aimed at gaining votes.
  • The reservation for EWS would not help to alleviate poverty or uplift economically weaker sections of the society.

Respondent’s Arguments

  • The reservation for economically weaker sections (EWS) was a necessary step to ensure social and economic justice in India.
  • The reservation for EWS was not violative of the basic structure of the Constitution of India as it was aimed at providing equal opportunities to all sections of the society.
  • The reservation for EWS was based on the need to address the economic inequality that existed in India and promote social and economic mobility.
  • The reservation for EWS was an enabling provision that empowered the state to make special provisions for economically weaker sections of the society in educational institutions and employment opportunities.

Judgment

The judgment in Janhit Abhiyan vs Union of India was delivered on 10 January 2020 by a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court of India. The bench unanimously upheld the constitutional validity of the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019 and the reservation for economically weaker sections of the society.

Here is a summary of the key findings and observations made by the court in its judgment:

  1. The 10% reservation for economically weaker sections does not violate the 50% ceiling limit on reservations set by the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney case. The court held that the reservation for economically weaker sections is based on economic criteria and not on social or educational backwardness, which are the criteria for the existing reservations. Therefore, the reservation for economically weaker sections does not affect the existing reservations and does not exceed the 50% ceiling limit.
  2. The reservation for economically weaker sections does not violate the basic structure of the Constitution. The court held that the reservation is a legitimate exercise of the state’s power to promote social and economic equality and does not affect the basic structure of the Constitution.
  3. The reservation for economically weaker sections is an enabling provision and not a mandatory provision. The court clarified that the reservation for economically weaker sections does not mandate the institutions to provide the 10% ceiling reservation to the EWS classes, but only enables the state to make arrangements for the same.
  4. The reservation for economically weaker sections must be implemented in a manner that ensures that the existing reservations for SCs, STs, and OBCs are not diluted. The court held that the reservation for economically weaker sections should be implemented after taking into account the existing reservations and the total percentage of reservations should not exceed 50%.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the reservation for economically weaker sections and clarified the implementation guidelines for the reservation system in India. The judgment has important implications for the upliftment of economically weaker sections of the society and for ensuring social and economic equality in India.

Outcome Of the Case and Its Impact

The outcome of Janhit Abhiyan vs Union of India was that the constitutional validity of the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019 and the reservation for economically weaker sections (EWS) were upheld by the Supreme Court of India.

The impact of this case has been significant, as it has ensured that economically weaker sections of the society are provided with equal opportunities in education and employment. The reservation for EWS is an enabling provision that empowers the state to make special provisions for economically weaker sections of the society in educational institutions and employment opportunities. The reservation for EWS has opened up new opportunities for people from economically weaker backgrounds to access quality education and secure jobs. It has helped to address the economic inequality that exists in India and promote social and economic mobility.

However, there have been some concerns regarding the implementation of the reservation for EWS, particularly with regards to its potential impact on the existing reservations for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs). There is a need to ensure that the reservation for EWS does not dilute the existing reservations and that the total percentage of reservations does not exceed 50%. Overall, the outcome of this case has been positive for the upliftment of economically weaker sections of society and for ensuring social and economic equality in India. However, it will be important to monitor the implementation of the reservation for EWS to ensure that it does not have any adverse impact on the existing reservations and that it achieves its intended objective of promoting social and economic mobility.Top of Form

Summary Of the Case

The Supreme Court’s judgment in Janhit Abhiyan vsUnion of India upheld the constitutional validity of the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019, and the 10% reservation for economically weaker sections, subject to the 50% reservation limit. The Court acknowledged the need to uplift the economically weaker sections and provide them with equal opportunities in education and employment. The Court, however, emphasized the importance of collecting data to ensure that the reservation was implemented effectively and efficiently.

The judgment in Janhit Abhiyan vs Union of India is significant as it recognizes the need to uplift the economically weaker sections and provide them with equal opportunities in education and employment. It also provides clarity on the constitutional validity of the reservation for economically weaker sections and the 50% reservation limit. The judgment highlights the importance of collecting quantifiable data to ensure that the reservation is implemented effectively and efficiently. Overall, the judgment strikes a balance between the need to uplift the economically weaker sections and the need to ensure that the reservation system is implemented effectively and efficiently, without diluting the existing reservations for SCs, STs, and OBCs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Janhit Abhiyan vs Union of India was a significant case that upheld the constitutional validity of the reservation for economically weaker sections (EWS) in India. The judgment has had a positive impact on the upliftment of economically weaker sections of the society and promoting social and economic equality. However, there is a need to ensure that the implementation of the reservation for EWS does not have any adverse impact on the existing reservations for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The case serves as an important reminder of the need for the state to ensure that all sections of society are provided with equal opportunities and access to education and employment.

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