The Madras High Court on Monday asked the Centre to file a detailed counter to a public interest litigation filed by the DMK challenging the validity of the recent Constitution amendment providing for an additional 10 per cent quota for the economically weaker sections in Government jobs and educational institutions .
A division bench, comprising S Manikumar and Subramaniam Prasad, heard arguments from petitioner, DMK legal wing secretary R S Bharathi, and Additional Solicitor-General G Rajagopalan representing the Centre, and posted the case to Feb 18 to enable to the Centre to file a detailed counter.
The bench which took up the PIL as the first case heard heated arguments for and against the new act from DMK’s senior counsel P Wilson and Central Government counsel Rajagopalan.
Wilson mainly contended that the Constitution only provided for reservation on the basis of social and educational backwardness of a community and not on the basis of economic backwardness, It was an enabling provision to uplift castes that had been oppressed for ages Moreover an economic backward community might course become well off. In any case reservation was not a poverty alleviation measure, he contended.
Wilson also said the 10 per cent quota for the economically backward would work against the interest of those who were left out of the quota and were competing under the open category
Citing an example, he said 69 per cent of jobs and seats in educational institutions had been set apart for the Dalits and other backward classes in Tamil Nadu.. If it were to set another 10 per cent for the economically backward category, it would only cut into the 31 per cent available under the open category, he argued.
What he did not mention was that even those in the reserved category can compete in the merit quota.
Wilson said reservation on the basis of social and economic backwardness was an exception to the equality clause of the Constitution and inclusion of another category in this would go against the basic structure of the Constitution, he said and prayed that the new act be set aside. He also sought an interim stay. .
Government counsel Rajagopalan said the DMK to which Bharathi belongs is against forward castes. Therefore, his petition was anything but a public interest litigation as his aim was to further the political agenda of his party.
He also that Bharathi,. a member of the Rajya Sabha, took part in the debate on the bill which was eventually passed by the House. Having to achieve his objective through one constitutional body, namely Parliament, he had now approached another constitutional body,s the court,he contended
.The court sustained the objection of Wilson to the charge that Bharathi's petition was politically motivated.
The court asked whether those with annual incomebelow Rs 8 lakh would come under the new category. Wilson said though it was not specifically provided for in the act, it was mentioned in a policy note prepared at a Union Cabinet meeting on Jan 7 last.
The court asked specifically asked whether the quota was for the forward castes. Avoiding a direct reply, Rajagopalan said those who are economically backward and who are not covered by the existing scheme of reservation would come under the 10 per cent quota.
After hearing both sides, the bench posted the case to Feb 18 with a direction to the Centre to file a detailed counter.