Under attack from the Opposition over the Supreme Court ruling that there is no fundamental right to reservation in promotions, the central government on Monday said it had nothing to do with the verdict and reiterated that it is committed to the welfare of Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).
Union Minister for Social Welfare Thaawarchand Gehlot said in a statement in both Houses of Parliament that the government is committed to the welfare of SCs and STs. The issue triggered an uproar in Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha witnessed a walkout by the Opposition after Gehlot’s statement.
“The Centre was never made a party to the case, nor were we asked to present any declaration. The matter arose due to a decision taken by the Uttarakhand government in 2012. There was a Congress government in the state at that time,” Gehlot said in Lok Sabha. “We will hold a high-level discussion and decide on the future course of action,” he added.
Gehlot’s statement came after an uproar in Lok Sabha, with MPs of the Congress and other Opposition parties alleging that the ruling BJP was trying to take away reservation. “In the name of rashtravad, this government is into Manuvaad,” said Congress leader in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. “There have been many incidents of atrocities and injustice towards Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the country. Why is the government is trying to take away their rights?,” he asked.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi intervened and said the government had nothing to do with the court ruling. Chowdhury said the BJP government in Uttarakhand had contended in court that reservation is not a fundamental right. As Opposition MPs entered the Well and started raising slogans, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the minister concerned would make a statement. He slammed the Congress for “politicising” the subject and said the Opposition party was in power in Uttarakhand in 2012 when the state government decided to fill government posts without providing reservation.
Alleging that there has been an onslaught on reservation since this government came to power, DMK’s A Raja said the Centre should file a review petition or bring the matter under Ninth Schedule of Constitution, which is beyond the purview of judicial scrutiny.
Chirag Paswan, leader of BJP ally LJP, pointed out that the Poona Pact between B R Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi led to the idea of reservation. “It is not a favour, but a constitutional right,” he said.
TMC’s Kalyan Banerjee said Article 16 (4) of the Constitution is clear about the quota for SCs and STs and it is a part of fundamental rights. Apna Dal MP Anupriya Patel said such orders hurting the weaker sections of society “frequently” come from judiciary because backward communities are not represented properly in judicial appointments.
IUML MP E T Muhammad Basheer said any move to do away with reservation could “jeopardise social justice.” Both IUML and CPM said the government should file a review petition.
Chowdhury and fellow party MPs Manickam Tagore, Manish Tewari and Gaurav Gogoi have given a notice for adjournment motion stating that “SCs and STs reservation in government services should not be diluted as it will be disastrous blow to the backward community of our country”.
Deciding a group of appeals pertaining to reservations to SCs and STs in promotions in the posts of Assistant Engineer (Civil) in PWD, Uttarakhand, the apex court last week said states are not bound to provide reservation in appointments and promotions and that there is no fundamental right to reservation in promotions.
In Rajya Sabha, Gehlot reiterated that the Centre was neither a party in the case nor was any affidavit sought from it and again mentioned that the Congress was in power in Uttarakhand when the state government decided not to provide reservation in promotions.
Leader of Opposition in the House Ghulam Nabi Azad called reservations for SCs and STs “the biggest gift given by the Constituent Assembly for the upliftment of one-fourth of the country’s population”. He said the government cannot wash it hands off by saying it will take a view at the highest level. The Opposition sought a clarification on whether the government will file a review petition or bring a Bill to nullify the court order.
Cabinet Minister Ram Vilas Paswan assured, “No government can end reservations and whatever needs to be done to continue the reservations, the government will do it.”
However, unconvinced by the response, most Opposition MPs walked out.
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