SC quashes decision to include Jats in OBC category, rules caste can’t be sole ground
Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court on Tuesday quashed a decision to include Jats in the central list of Other Backward Classes (OBC) category in nine states for providing reservation benefits.
The notification included Jat community in OBC list in Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan (two districts of Bharatpur and Dholpur), Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and extended reservation benefits to Jats in job and education.
A bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi held that the central government overlooked the relevant factors and gave a go by to the statutory scheme in according reservation benefits to what it called as a “politically organised” community.
The court referred to its historic judgement of granting legal recognition to transgenders to state that the government must now acknowledge that new classes are emerging that require quota benefits under the constitutional scheme. It maintained that social backwardness was the most crucial factor to ascertain backwardness and that caste cannot be the sole factor.
The bench quashed the notification issued by the UPA-II in March last year.
The Centre had argued that the move was “in public interest” and that it was not bound by the recommendation of the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) on the issue. The notification was issued by the previous UPA regime as a poll-eve decision to include Jats in the backward category.
Later, the Narendra Modi government had also supported the UPA regime’s decision to include the Jat community in the Central OBC list for providing reservation, and refuted the allegation that it was done to gain political mileage in the general elections.
Countering a batch of petitions that challenged the validity of the notification, the government had asserted its “executive” power over the “statutory” power of the commission, holding it was empowered to take such decisions since they were accountable directly to the people.
The government had included Jats in the OBC category despite a categorical rejection of this idea by the NCBC. Defending its decision, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has pointed out that the NCBC’s advice was “directory and not mandatory.” A mere consultation with the NCBC was enough and the government could take its own decision thereafter, it said.
“To hold the advice of the NCBC as binding would be to interpret powers of executive as abdicated to a statutory authority. This will be contrary to principles of governance. Implementation of Directive Principles of State Policy is the duty of the State, whose executives are in turn accountable to the people,” the Centre had said.
It claimed that the commission had not adequately taken into account the ground realities and the Cabinet therefore junked its advice.
The decision by the UPA-II government was seen as an attempt to appease the community, which has strong social and political clout in western Uttar Pradesh and its bordering areas of Uttarakhand, Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan besides also being present in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
The Centre’s affidavit however refuted the allegations that a Group of Ministers (GoM) was constituted after an approval by the Prime Minister’s Office in June last year to create grounds for interfering with the independent functioning of the NCBC and carry out a parallel exercise to take a favourable decision later.
“The averments that the central government had acted with a motive to gain benefits to the ruling political parties in the forthcoming general election is denied as unfounded. It is respectfully submitted that the government has acted bonafide and in public interest,” it said.
The Centre claimed that “inclusion of Jats in the central list of OBC category will further the constitutional goals of achieving an egalitarian society” and that the SC should not entertain an appeal against this decision. It added that the decision was based on the recommendations of an expert committee constituted by the Indian Council for Social Science and Research.
The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, some of which are in favour of the decision and others opposing it.
Source:: Indian Express