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Claiming to placate ‘anger,’ Rajasthan govt clears quotas for poor among upper castes

The SBC category, which already enjoys 1 per cent reservation in the state, includes Gujjars, Banjaras, Gadarias, Raikas and Gadia Lohars.

Written by Mahim Pratap Singh | Jaipur |
Updated: September 23, 2015 7:22:41 am

Moving to tap what it calls growing “anger” among the forward castes over the issue of reservation, Rajasthan passed two bills Tuesday to provide 14 per cent reservation to the economically backward classes (EBC) among the forward castes, and 5 per cent to special backward classes (SBC) including Gujjars. This comes even as Gujarat grapples with the Hardik Patel-led Patidar agitation.

Passed by the Assembly, the Rajasthan Economically Backward Classes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutes in the State and of Appointments and Posts in Services under the State) Bill, 2015, and Rajasthan Special Backward Classes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutes in the State and of Appointments and Posts in Services under the State) Bill, 2015, take the overall quota in the state to 69 per cent — 19 per cent more than the Supreme Court-mandated cap of 50 per cent.

Presenting the EBC reservation bill in the assembly, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said: “The backward classes have managed to bring themselves into the mainstream to a great extent. However, as a result, the economically deprived sections from the unreserved category have fallen behind and feel cut-off from the mainstream.”

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“Realising the anger prevalent in this huge group… the government took the policy decision of providing 14 per cent reservation to them,” Kataria said.

On the Gujjar (SBC) reservation bill, Kataria said the government had realised — after two stays by the High Court on previous such provisions — that it was not fair to club all deprived sections in one group. “Therefore, we decided to bring a separate bill for the SBC category,” he said.

As promised to the Gujjar community, the government hopes to get the two bills included in the Ninth Schedule to the Constitution. The assembly passed resolutions requesting the Centre to amend the Constitution to bring the two bills under Article 31B of the Ninth Schedule.

Article 31B, when it was first inserted in the Constitution via the First Constitutional (Amendment) Act 1951, ensured that laws contained in the Ninth Schedule were immune from judicial scrutiny.

But in 2007, in the I R Coelho v State of Tamil Nadu case, the Supreme Court ruled that laws threatening to violate the basic structure of the Constitution would be open to judicial review.

Earlier this month, the state cabinet had given the nod to the two draft bills. Now, the bills await the assent of Governor Kalyan Singh to become law.

While the EBC bill intends to provide 14 per cent reservation in state educational institutions and government jobs to poorer sections among the forward castes, the SBC bill seeks to satisfy the demand of the Gujjar community for 5 per cent reservation.

The SBC category, which already enjoys 1 per cent reservation in the state, includes Gujjars, Banjaras, Gadarias, Raikas and Gadia Lohars.

The current quota break up in Rajasthan adds up to 50 per cent — 21 per cent for OBCs, 16 per cent for SCs, 12 per cent for STs and 1 per cent for SBCs.

With the two new bills, the overall quota in the state will be 19 per cent higher than the 50 per cent cap on reservations directed by the Supreme Court, originally in the M R Balaji vs State of Mysore judgment (1963) and further outlined in the Indra Sawhney Vs Union of India judgment (1992).

The state government tried to provide quota to these communities earlier too via a single law in 2008 that was stayed by the Rajasthan High Court in 2013.

According to constitutional experts, the government will have a tough time establishing the legal validity of either law, particularly the EBC Act.

“Part 16 of the Constitution identifies only three categories of special classes, besides Anglo-Indians. These are SC, ST and OBC. So, any new category will be violative of the basic structure of the Constitution and is likely to be struck down,” said former bureaucrat Satyanarayan Singh who was a member of the I S Israni committee that recommended 1 per cent reservation to the SBCs in 2010.

According to Singh, while the EBC category could in no way pass the constitutional test, the government would also be hard pressed to justify the 5 per cent SBC quota since it would exceed the 50 per cent cap.

The opposition Congress accused the BJP of misleading people with the two new laws.

“We welcome reservation for these communities but the BJP government is clearly misleading the people of Rajasthan. If they are really serious about providing reservation, they should get the Constitution amended since their government is at the Centre too,” Leader of Opposition Rameshwar Dudi told The Indian Express.

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