Libertatem Magazine

Supreme Court Scrapped Jat Reservation

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In the case of Ram Singh v. Union of India, a writ petition challenging the notification issued in the Gazette of India on 04 March 2014 whereby the Jat community was included in the Central list of Backward Classes in the states of States of Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, NCT of Delhi, Bharatpur and Dholpur districts of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. This notification was issued by the Union Cabinet, though there being strong reservation on the same by the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC). The Union Cabinet issued the notification and rejecting the claim of NCBC stating that NCBC haven’t considered ground realties. The report submitted by NCBC states that that merely belonging to an agricultural community cannot confer backward status on the Jats. The report also explicates that the Jat community in India is neither socially nor educationally backward and also rejected the claim made by the community of them being not represented in the public employment stating the empirical data showing that there being adequate representation in the armed forces, government services and educational institutions. NCBC advocated that there being a dire need to have a non-caste based reservations for backward classes. In the present case Judges refereed to Indira Sawhney & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. whereby after that judgement a specialised body was setup to which grievance regarding the inclusion, exclusion and wrongful inclusion or exclusion of the castes can be made. Justice Jeevan Reddy’s remark in the Indira Sawhney case was refereed where he stated that NCBC must be referred in all matters and its advice must be sought and any decision taken, the suggestions provided by the NCBC must be given due consideration. Petitioners stated that the notification was passed before Lok Sabha elections in order to fulfil political motive and have malice in that decision just to gain electoral advantage. According to Section 9(2) & Section 11 of the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993 the advice of the Commission shall ordinarily be binding upon the Central Government until and unless there are strong compelling and overwhelming reasons not to do so. Hon’ble Justice Ranjan Gogoi concluded in this case that the states that are chosen where Jats will be listed in the Central List was arrived at on consideration of matters that are, in any way, extraneous and irrelevant. The apex court also observed that the report submitted by the NCBC was completely based on facts and NCBC did not take any particular stand in the matter and did not come up with any positive recommendation either in favour or against the inclusion of the Jats in the Central List of OBCs.

The court while rejecting the argument presented by the Attorney General Mohan Parasaran stating that NCBC upon consideration of the various materials documented before it had underplayed and/or overstressed parts of the said material. The court instead stated, such an approach, by itself, would not make either the decision making process or the decision taken legally infirm or unsustainable. Something more would be required in order to bypass the advice tendered by the NCBC which judicially in the Indra Sawhney Case and expressly provided statutory provisions under the NCBC Act would be binding on the Union Government in the ordinary course. The court while pointing out the inefficiency of the Union Government said that the notification was issued under the exercise of powers under Article 16(4) of the Constitution whereas they have overlooked the expressly provided provisions in the NCBC Act which specifically deal with the same and hence finalised that the Union Government cannot be permitted to consider their own self-professed norms where there are norms already incorporated under the statute and hence the Union Government was bound to act on the same.

Except in the State of Haryana the decision for inclusion of Jats under the OBC List was already considered a decade back and Justice Gogoi emphasised that a decision which might affect the Fundamental Rights of many citizens covered under Article 14 & Article 16 of the Constitution must be taken on the basis of contemporaneous inputs and not outdated and antiquated data. Even under Section 11 of the NCBC Act there should be a revision of the Central List in every ten years and hence reflecting the importance of decision making based on the availability of contemporaneous data rather than going by the historical inputs. In order to be listed under the OBC category in the Central List the caste has to be socially backward; educational and economic backwardness may lead to social backwardness but social backwardness is distinct from both the economic and educational backwardness and has its own connotations and prerequisites. Hence, on the report of the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research the Jats where not socially backward as they being the land owning community in Haryana and their participation in the Class I & Class II Government Services was huge and the only thing they lag behind was enrolment in the school and higher education. Talking about the National Capital Territory of Delhi, Jats lag behind in the social and educational standing as and when compared to the Gujars who have been listed in the Central List of OBSc. Same is the case in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan where Jats lag behind in the enrolment in higher and technical education whereas in Himachal Pradesh the Jat community is socially, educationally and economically backward and they suffice all the conditions to be included in the Central List but it was suggested that they should be included in the State OBC List.

Taking into consideration the claim of the Union Government, documents including report on the same has to be looked but State Commission Report in the case of Haryana (Justice K.C. Gupta Commission Report) which was submitted in the year 2012 and all other documents data was about a decade old and was outdated. As outdated data is not an accurate parameter for measuring backwardness and hence the court refuted the Government’s argument that such notification was made taking into account the ground realties. Either a social class is internally homogeneous based on caste or occupation, or it can be heterogeneous based on disability or gender such as transgender. Court defined backwardness as a manifestation caused by the presence of several independent circumstances which may be social, cultural, economic, educational or even political. Thus the parameters laid down in this case is that, backwardness can no longer be based on social, economic and educational indicators and also should not be relative but only the most distressed in the society must be considered. And any other inclusion except the above will amount to serious abdication of the constitutional duty of the State. The important fact to note is that the court recognised Jats as politically organised class. And hence the Supreme Court held that the view of NCBC was adequately supported by good and acceptable reasons and the Notification bearing No.63 dated o4 March 2014 was set aside and quashed.

Currently a review petition is filed in the Supreme Court challenging the decision in Ram Singh & Ors. V. Union of India by the Central Government. Interestingly the review petition has been filed by the new government in power that being the BJP and previously it was Congress who brought the notification. It seems that both the political parties are in support for the inclusion of Jats in the OBC category under the Central List in all these nine states.

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