A five-judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court in its majority judgment upheld the constitutionality of reservations for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) introduced by the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019.

The Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, Justice S Ravindra Bhat, Justice Bela M Trivedi and Justice J B Pardiwala pronounced its verdict in four opinions. The minority view was authored by Justice Bhat and the CJI concurred with him without writing a separate opinion.

Justice Dinesh Maheshwari authored an opinion framing three issues, (1) whether reservation structured singularly only on economic criteria violates the constitution, (2) whether the exclusion of classes covered under Articles 15(4), 15(5) and 16(4) from getting the benefit of reservation as economically weaker section violates the equality code and thereby the basic structure and (3)whether EWS reservation of 10% in addition to the existing reservation violates the constitution by breaching 50% sealing limit.

"Reservation in an instrument of affirmative action by the state so as to ensure all inclusive march towards the goals of an egalitarian society while counter acting inequalities. It is an instrument not only for the inclusion of socially and educationally backward classes to the mainstream of the society but also for the inclusion of any class or section so disadvantaged as to be answering the description of a weaker section", the Judge read from the opinion.

He answered all the three questions in the negative. As per the opinion, the 103rd Constitutional amendment does not violate the constitution and its basic structure.

Justice Bela Trivedi concurred with the opinion of Justice Maheshwari in a separate concurring opinion. "As well settled, it must be presumed that the legislature understands and appreciates the needs of its own people. Its laws are directed towards the problems made manifest by experience and its discriminations are based on adequate norms. Therefore the constitutional amendment could not be struck down as discriminatory if the state of facts are reasonably conceived to justify it", the Judge read from her opinion. "Treating EWS as a separate class is a reasonable classification", the Judge held.

Justice J B Pardiwala concurred with Justice Maheshwari and Justice Trivedi and observed "Reservation is not an end but a means. A means to secure social and economic justice. Reservation should not be allowed to become a vested interest. The real solution, however, lies in eliminating the causes that have led to the social, educational and economic backwardness of the weaker section of the community. This exercise of eliminating the causes started immediately after independence and it still continues".

"As larger percentage of backward class members attain acceptable standards of education and employment they should be removed from the backward categories so that the attention can be paid towards those classes which genuinely need help", the Judge added.

Justice Ravindra Bhat dissented from the majority opinion from question number 3. "This Court has for the first time, in the seven decades of independence, sanctioned an exclusionary and discriminatory principle. Our constitution does not speak a language of exclusion. In my considered opinion, the amendment bears the language of exclusion, undermine the fabric of social justice and thereby the basic structure", the Judge held.

He held that the application of the doctrine of classification to the poor is against the constitution. Justice Bhat read out his opinion in detail.

Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit pronounced that, "I have concurred with the view taken by Hon'ble Justice Ravindra Bhat in its entirety".

So effectively the decision is three is to two, the CJI said.

Cause Title- Janhit Abhiyan v Union of India (WP (C) 55/2019)