Upper Caste Quota: Jaitley says judiciary cannot annul this reservation

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

Finance minister and legal expert Arun Jaitley today allayed fears that the latest move to give reservations to forward communities will also be struck down by the courts like previous attempts.

Replying to such concerns raised by Congress MP KV Thomas that drew parallels with a similar, but abortive attempt by PV Narasimha Rao, Jaitley said the government has been more thorough this time.

“Many attempts have been made to extent reservations to the poor, based on economic considerations, and these have been struck down by the courts,” Jaitley said.

“But such attempts were made, whether by the state or the center, through notifications or regular law,” he said.

He pointed out that the courts used the provisions under Article 15 and 16 of the constitution — that prohibits discrimination on unnecessary grounds — to strike down these attempts to provide quotas on the basis of income.

He said that now, that ‘source of power’ is being amended to allow the government to go forward with the move to offer reservations to the poor among forward castes and communities.

He said the previous attempts were half-baked and therefore struck down.

Jaitley said the 50% limit that the courts had imposed on the total proportion of reserved seats was for caste-based reservations.

This 10% quota, Jaitley said, is not of the same type, but is economic in nature.

“What we are saying is: ‘You (general class) have 50% of seats. Can you share 10% from it with the poor among you?’ Now, who can have a problem with that,” he asked.

Jaitley was defending a bill to amend the constitution and give a 10% quota in government jobs and educational institutions to the poor among upper castes and other forward communities, including those among Muslims and Christians.

The bill essentially says that the poor among forward castes and communities are not able to get government jobs or attend higher educational institutions like colleges.

To fix the shortcoming, the bill allows the government to set up a 10% quota exclusively for upper castes and communities from which seats will be given only on the basis of the candidate’s economic background.

Under the rules, members of households with monthly income of up to Rs 66,666 per month will qualify to be admitted under the economic reservation quota.