Explain the salient features of 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act. Do you think economic disadvantage is a sound enough criteria for the quota in the realm of public employment?

Explain the salient features of 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act. Do you think economic disadvantage is a sound enough criteria for the quota in the realm of public employment?


Government passed 103rd constitutional amendment act to promote “social equality” by providing “equal opportunities in higher education and employment to those who have been excluded by virtue of their economic status.” (Jan 2019)

  1. 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act reserves 10% of jobs and places in educational institutions for citizens who fall into the ‘general’ category — those not specifically included in other categories such as SC, ST or OBC.
  2. It amends Article 15 and added new article 15(6) to additionally permit the government to provide for the advancement of “economically weaker sections”.
  3. It also amends Article 16 and added new article 16(6) to permit the government to reserve up to 10% of all posts for the “economically weaker sections” of citizens.
  4. Such reservation will not apply to minority educational institutions.
  5. The reservation of up to 10% for “economically weaker sections” in educational institutions and public employment will be in addition to the existing reservation.
  6. The amendment aims to fulfil the commitments of the directive principles of state policy under Article 46, to promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the society.
  7. The central government to notify the “economically weaker sections” of citizens on the basis of family income and other indicators of economic disadvantage.
  1. People who have an annual income of less than INR 8 lakhs, or
  2. People who own less than five acres of farmland, or
  3. People who have a house less than 1,000 sq feet in a town (or 100 sq yard in a notified municipal area).
  4. In case of a residential plot in a non-notified municipality area, the residential plot should be below 200 yards
  1. In Indira Sawhney case it was held that “economic backwardness cannot be the sole criterion for giving reservation, however, it can be identified on the basis of occupation- cum-income without any reference to caste.
  2. The main purpose of reservation is to uplift the classes which are not adequately represented. Economic backwardness cannot be presumed as inadequacy in representation.
  3. Article 15(6) and 16(6) clearly violate this principle which gives states the freedom to reserve the seats for EWS.
  4. It has been argued that the reservation is “too little for too many” because 8 lakh income threshold is too high and will practically cover nearly the entire population not already covered by reservations will fall under this category. NSSO show that at least 95% of Indian families will fall within this limit.
  5. This may result into more and more demand for reservation for this particular section who are not reserved, in the future.
  6. It will make reserved seats remain vacant. For example – a post of professor needs a person to be already an associate professor and the income of an associate professor is usually more than 8 lacs. Now, the seats reserved for the professor could not be filled as there is no EWS qualified for this post. So, this is basically impractical side of the amendment.
  7. Wealth, not the income should be a criteria for protective discrimination.
  8. The family income criteria has no relation with the goal of reservation. In other words as reservation is not the remedy to the problem of poverty (reservation is about compensating for social and institutional barriers to representation). This makes mandating reservation on economic disadvantage arbitrary.
  9. Determining economic backwardness will be a formidable challenge to determine economic backwardness. There are concerns over inclusion and exclusion of persons under the criteria.

India is a vast country with burgeoning population where the reservation based on economic criteria may not be able to provide long term solution to issues of unemployment and poverty. There also involved criticism into the validity of the amendment as it violates and basic principle of structure of equality, however, as long as economic reservation is defensible on a ground that is recognizable in terms of equality, the fact that it departs from how equality and social justice is presently understood in the Constitution, is no ground for its validity.

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