The Haryana assembly passed a bill on Tuesday to provide 10% reservation in jobs and education to Jats and five other castes, upholding the BJP-led government’s promise during a violent quota stir in February that killed about 30 people.
The new law will raise the state’s quota percentage to 67%, a legally indefensible position in view of a 1992 Supreme Court judgment that fixed a cap of 50%.
Backward classes in Haryana already enjoy 27 % reservation, followed by scheduled castes’ 20%, and 10% for the economically backward people.
Besides, the state legislature passed the Haryana backward classes commission bill to set up a statutory mechanism for examining requests of inclusion and complaints of over-exclusion and under-inclusion of people in this reserved category.
Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s government will request the Centre to include the quota law in the Constitution’s Ninth Schedule to avoid getting into a legal tangle.
Khattar described the successful enactment of the law as a “historic day” for Haryana. “Every category will gain … a win-win situation for all. There will be no loss to anyone,” he said.
Leaders were divided on the bill as the ruling BJP’s own parliamentarian from Kurukshetra, Rajkumar Saini, who has been opposing reservation for the state’s politically-dominant Jats, said it was a “murder of democracy”.
Congress leader and former minister Ajay Singh Yadav, who is from the OBC community, said it was a “black day” for Haryana. His party was not opposed to the bill, though.
BJP ally INLD blamed the previous Congress government for the Jat stir.
“The government could have prevented large-scale violence and loss of lives had it brought the bill one-and-a-half years ago,” party leader Abhay Chautala said.
Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda countered the charge, saying the BJP was playing vote-bank politics and vitiating the state’s atmosphere.
All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti leader Hawa Singh Sangwan welcomed the law, though he announced that he “will be happy only when we get reservation in the Centre”.
Lawyer and youth leader Vinit Dhankar made it clear that Jats don’t want to be sepoys and clerks. “We want administrative roles as well.”
The reservation law says six castes — Jats, Jat Sikhs, Bishnois, Rors, Tyagis and Muslim or Mulla Jats — have been included in a new backward class category, called BC-C. They will get 10 % reservation in class 3 and 4 posts and 6% reservation in class 1 and 2 jobs.
The existing 27 % reservation to 71 castes in two backward class categories, BC-A and BC-B, has also been brought under the ambit of the law. Till now, reservation in these two categories was given through an executive order.
Legal experts said the Ninth Schedule would not guarantee the Haryana law blanket protection from judicial review.
In a January 2007 order, the top court said all constitutional amendments made on or after April 24, 1973, can be reviewed if the legislation was violating fundamental rights and the “basic structure” of the Constitution at the same time.
(With inputs from Hardik Anand in Rohtak and agencies)