Surat: The Gujarat High Court today quashed a state ordinance on 10 per cent quota for economically backward classes among the unreserved category, in a setback to BJP government which had taken the step to pacify the agitating Patel community. The decision was taken by the Anandiben Patel administration following the Patidar reservation agitation.
While delivering its order on multiple Public Interest Litigation (PILs) filed by separate individuals, the division bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi termed the ordinance as unconstitutional and illegal as per the guidelines of Supreme Court. The petitioners included students from Vadodara, social activists and other stakeholders.
Besieged with the highly charged agitation by the politically and socially powerful Patidar community seeking quotas, the Anandiben administration, on May 1, issued the Gujarat Unreserved Economically Weaker Sections (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions in the State and of Appointments and Posts in Services under the State) Ordinance, 2016.
Jayantbhai Manani, a social worker associated with several outfits for OBC communities, stated in his petition that “any special provision providing quotas based on economic criteria is not tenable under the law as the Constitution does not permit the same.”
According to him, the ordinance was in “direct conflict” with the judgment of the apex court that a State cannot provide more than 50 per cent reservation, and that reservation could only be allowed on “ground of social and educational backwardness and not poverty per se.”
The petitioner stated that without collecting necessary data on economic backwardness among the upper castes who don’t enjoy benefits of quota, the government issued the ordinance.
“In the absence of such data or inquiry, classification of economically backward sections suffers from arbitrariness. Before granting reservation to the economically weaker sections, The State authorities have to identify and measure quantifiable data by showing backwardness of the economically weaker sections (EWS) in general category and inadequacy of representation of a class in public employment under the state,” the petitioner said.
In the ordinance, the government has capped the income limit of Rs. 6 lakh to avail the benefits of quotas under the scheme.