Rajasthan high court on Friday struck down a law providing education and job quotas to pastoral community Gujjars among other groups, decision that could revive the reservation campaign that has often turned violent.
The verdict has upset the community, which said the Vasundhara Raje government had failed to protect their interests. The community leaders are meeting on Saturday to discuss the order.
A division bench of justice Manish Bhandari and justice JK Ranka passed the order on petitions challenging an October 2015 government notification that gave 5% reservation to the special backward classes (SBCs), including Gujjars.
The law, the petitioners said, violated the 50%-limit set by the Supreme Court a few years ago. The 5% quota had pushed up the reservation in the state to 54%.
The growing demand for quotas underlines the challenge the government faces in creating education opportunities for a largely-young population as well as jobs for about a million people who enter the workforce every month.
Though seven per cent of the state’s population, the Gujjars are politically an influential community and launched an agitation in 2007 for reservation in government jobs and education. More than 70 people have been killed in the decade-long stir in clashes with police and other communities opposing the demand.
The state government could be staring at another round of agitation. Gujjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti (Gujjar Reservation Campaign Committee) spokesperson Himmat Singh said they felt cheated by the government.
“The government did not include this (reservation law) in the ninth schedule of the Constitution as promised to insulate it from judicial review,” he said. The community would discuss the decision on Saturday to decide its next move.
This was the third round of litigation on Gujjar reservation, said Shobhit Tiwari, the lawyer for petitioners, the Samata Andolan Samiti, an anti-reservation body, and Captain Gurvinder Singh, a samiti member.
In 2008, they challenged a law for SBC reservation which was stayed by the high court two years later. The court asked the state to present quantifiable data to support reservation to five communities under the SBC, he said.
The government passed an order in January 2013, citing the Justice Israni committee, which collected data on social status of the SBC communities, all of which are nomadic but for the Gujjars. “We challenged that as well,” he said.
The government junked the 2008 act and in September introduced the Rajasthan special backward classes reservation bill in the assembly, he said. The law was notified on October 16 after it was passed by the assembly. Within days, the samiti moved the high court.