Case Summary

Janhit Abhiyan Vs. Union Of India (2022 Scc Online Sc 1540)

This Case Summary is written by Saumya Tripathi, an LL.M. student at Symbiosis Law School, Noida

“Caste-based reservations might be substantially eliminated thanks to the new idea of economic grounds for affirmative action established by the challenged amendment”.

~Justice Pardiwala



PETITIONER: Janhit Abhiyan Akhil Bhartiya Kushwaha Mahasabha; Youth for Equality; SC/ST Agricultural Research and Education Employees Welfare Association; Peoples Party of India (Democratic)

ADVOCATES: Rajeev Dhawan; Gopal Sankaranarayanan; MN Rao; Meenakshi Arora

RESPONDENT: Union of India; Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment; The State of Maharashtra; Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances; and Pensions

ADVOCATES: Attorney General KK Venugopal; Solicitor General Tushar Mehta


Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, Bela M Trivedi and JB Pardiwala, Justice Ravindra Bhat, Former Chief Justice UU Lalit

Reservations have been a contentious topic in the nation for a long time. It was founded with the intention of giving underprivileged members of society access to possibilities that they had previously been denied because of their social standing or societal oppression. The First Amendment gave the government the authority to establish reservation laws for the Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, and Other Backward Classes. Over time, both proponents and opponents of reservations have emerged. Then the 103rd Amendment was passed, which added 10% of the upper caste’s economically weaker sections (hence referred to as EWS) to the caste’s existing reservations. Given that this reservation exceeded the 50% threshold outlined in Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, the issue of its legality has been raised. The 10% reserve for the EWS Quota was recently affirmed by the Supreme Court of India, which ruled that it did not contradict the Constitution’s fundamental principles and that the 50% cap was “not inflexible” and could therefore allow for the addition of the 10% reservation. 


On January 9th, 2019, the Parliament amended Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution, inserting 15(6) and 16(6) to extend the reservation in educational institutions along with employment opportunities for economically weaker sections of society. This was the One Hundred and Third (103rd) Amendment to the Indian Constitution. Since it was approved by the President of India in 2019, the amendment has been a source of controversy. It permitted the state to create special provisions for those from economically deprived sections of society in both educational institutions and employment possibilities.

However, following the adoption of the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act of 2019, a number of writ petitions and applications for special leave to appeal were made in an effort to declare the aforementioned amendment unconstitutional and in violation of the basic structure concept. Through the insertion of Articles 15(6) and 16(6) to the Indian Constitution, the state gained the authority to impose particular restrictions on reservations for members of the economically weaker class, with a 10% maximum. Additionally, it should be highlighted that the aforementioned reservation is just facilitating in character as opposed to obligatory.


After hearing from the petitioners and respondents in this matter, the five-judge panel identified the following issues that require resolution:

  • Economic factors cannot be the only ones used to decide whether to grant reserve to a particular group of people and thus violates the constitution’s fundamental principles.
  • It is illogically discriminatory in character and hence contradicts the fundamental principles of the constitution to exclude socially and educationally backward groups (SEBCs), which include SCs, STs, and OBCs, from this particular provision for EWS.
  • Whether or not it violates the Equality Code and, thus, the basic structure theory to deny the benefit of reservation to classes described in Articles 15(4), 15(5), and 16(4) since they are economically weaker sections.


  • The 50% reservation cap is broken by the Constitution’s (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act of 2019. 

The petitioners’ attorneys claim that including a 10% reservation “in addition to the existing reservation” under articles 15 and 16 would violate the precedent established in the instance of Indra Sawhney, where it was eventually by the Supreme Court and numerous High Courts over the course of decades in a number of judgments. Furthermore, unless a statute is protected by the Constitution’s 9th Schedule, the 50% cap cannot be violated in any way.

  • The reservation policy was incorporated into the Constitution to foster an egalitarian society.

The petitioners’ attorneys argued that the entire goal of granting the State the authority to create reservations for the marginalized class of people was to eventually eliminate a society where certain classes of people are socially and educationally disadvantaged. In support of this, it was argued that the Amendment Act violated the Constitution’s fundamental principles by attempting to include people who had never experienced social or educational disadvantage; as a result, this amendment amounted to fraud on the Constitution itself (the M. R. Balaji case was cited as support).

  • Economic considerations cannot be the only justification for a reservation.

The Petitioners’ Counsels have relied on numerous historic decisions to argue that the Legislature erred in recognizing “socially or educationally backward” as a cause for establishing reservation as opposed to “socially and economically backward” when drafting the Amendment Act. Indra Sawhney and the M. R. Balaji case were cited in defending the same.

It was further argued that the purpose of reservations, as outlined in Articles 15 and 16, was to fairly represent castes that weren’t already fairly represented. 


In the current instance, the respondents put up their arguments to prove that the Amendment Act does not infringe upon but rather strengthens the fundamental principles of the Constitution.

  • The 10% reservation would have no bearing on the 50% cap placed on the SEBC.

In defence of the aforementioned claim, the Attorney General argued that as SEBC, SC, and ST already benefit from the advantages of reservation across all fields—including government, public services, and the legislative branch—their rights are not at all damaged. Therefore, it cannot be stated that the rights of a group of people for whom a reserve has already been made have been infringed or that the Equality Code has been broken by such a reservation for an economically weaker portion. The 10% reservation, it was further argued, is an addition to the SEBCs’ current reservation, which already exists.

  • The fundamental framework provided by the Amendment Act is not being violated.

The counsel for the respondents has made a statement that the infringement of Article 14 of the Constitution does not constitute a violation of the Constitution’s fundamental principles in support of their argument that the Amendment Act does not go against that document’s fundamental principles. Additionally, it was argued that the current amendment, which provides economic fairness to Indian inhabitants through the EWS Reservation, does not violate the Constitution’s fundamental principles but is in accordance with them.

  • The right of EWS derives from Article 21 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to a “dignified life.”

According to the respondent’s attorney, Ms Vibha Dutta Makhija, the right of the EWS, as said by the Amendment Act, derives from their ability to live a life of dignity as envisioned by Article 21 under the Constitution. Additionally, she said that poverty undermines respect and that it is the responsibility of the government to end poverty so that the EWS can live in dignity.


The Constitutional Amendments (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019, was upheld by 3:2 majorities in the “EWS Judgment” decision, which was handed down on November 7, 2022.


The Honorable Supreme Court’s five-judge panel ruled unanimously to uphold the Amendment Act’s legality. The petitions contesting the Amendment Act were liable to be dismissed, according to Hon. Justices Bela M. Trivedi, J. B. Pardiwala, and Dinesh Maheshwari, who affirmed that the Amendment Act cannot be said to violate the Constitution’s fundamental principles. Neither does a reservation for EWS members made exclusively on the basis of income disparity violate the fundamental structure, nor does it impair SEBC members’ rights. 

Hon. Justice Bela M. Trivedi has emphasized the Statements of Arguments and Justifications for the Constitution’s (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Bill in support of the above ratio adopted by the Hon. Supreme Court in order to highlight the fact that a sizable portion of the EWS has been barred from receiving a quality education due to their financial incapacity. These people are neither financially able to afford the highest education nor qualified for reservations. As a result, the Constitution has changed appropriately. 

Therefore, if the facts were such that they could reasonably be interpreted to support it, the constitutional amendment would have been invalidated as discriminatory. However, the challenged amendment, which allows the State to establish special provisions for “economically weaker sections” of the population that are not members of scheduled castes or tribes or members of socially or educationally disadvantaged classes of citizens, must be viewed as affirmative action by the Parliament for the good of and progress of the economically disadvantaged population. It would not be possible to treat the economically weaker segments of the citizenry as a separate class as irrational or indefensible or even a betrayal of a fundamental characteristic or a violation of Article 14.

(Justice Bhat and CJI U. U. Lalit also took a similar view and passed a verdict declaring the Amendment Act unconstitutional.)

The Amendment Act was determined to violate the fundamental structure. It was, thus, unconstitutional, according to the minority opinion, represented by the judgment rendered by Hon. Justice Ravindra Bhat and Hon. Chief Justice of India U. U. Lalit.

Regarding the addition of 15(6) of article 15, Hon’ble Justice R. Bhat ruled that it is unconstitutional because it prevents a representation of the socially and educationally disadvantaged and poorest segments of society. Therefore, a clause like that that discriminated against the weak violated the Equality Code. Hon. Justice R. Bhat also ruled that Article 16(6) could be found invalid for two fundamental reasons. First, due to the exclusion of the existing educationally and socially disadvantaged class of people. Second, giving the EWS a reservation under Article 16 was obviously against the Constitution’s fundamental principles because Article 16 addresses a specific community or class’s lack of representation.


Reservation has become a topic that deeply impacts every Indian since the Constitution of the nation came into effect, regardless of the caste to which they may belong.  Since the creation of the Indian Constitution, reservation-related policies have been in effect in India. But it’s crucial to keep in mind that the post-independence reservation policies were implemented with the Indian society in mind; specifically, these reservations were implemented to give SC, ST, SEBC, and OBC groups, who suffered from social exclusion, proportionate representation in employment and education. However, the uplifting of the Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, Socially and Economically Backward Classes, and other backward classes through reservation policies have proven unfair for the upper caste individuals who are not equally wealthy given the changing socioeconomic conditions of Indian societies.

Additionally, reservation rules that favour the Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, Socially and Economically Retarded, and Other Retarded Classes have always been ill-used for electoral gains, ignoring the reality of India. In order to use the reservation policy for political gain, many state governments, including those of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and others, have been flagrantly flouting the precedent set by the Supreme Court in the case of Indra Sawhney. The Supreme Court has on occasion ruled that these state government measures are unlawful.

Because reserves have never served their intended purpose, the government has correctly grasped the reality of the socioeconomic situation in the nation and passed The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019. The government has also ensured that the upper caste group, which has been powerless to represent itself in society, benefits the most from the Amendment Act by excluding the ST, SC, SEBC, and OBC from the EWS quota.

A person who has unfairly benefited from these policies for generations is not permitted to take use of such reservations. The benefit of reserves should only be used by those from the lowest social strata.


After comprehending and analyzing the subtleties of the 103rd amendment to the constitution, which introduces reservation for the economically weaker sections of society in Articles 15(6) and 16(6), one may be able to conclude that India still experiences widespread poverty and requires strong measures to broaden the social and economic benefit to every stratum of society. The Supreme Court has construed the amendment in a way that can enable it to achieve the preamble objective of ensuring economic justice for all. In addition, the CJI UU Lalit & J Ravindra Bhat opposing opinion highlights the historical significance of reservation as restitution for people who were invariably discriminated against because of their caste.

Although it is clear from this judgment that both social and economic backwardness exists in society, it is important to note that these two types of backwardness must be considered together for the benefit of society.

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