The UPA government’s election-eve move to extend reservation to Jats in jobs and education seems headed for trouble, with the Supreme Court on Tuesday calling for all records that led to the decision.
“The matter is serious… We would like to peruse the files containing the material to know whether there was application of mind or not,” a bench headed by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam said.
The Centre had on March 4 included Jats in Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan (two districts of Bharatpur and Dholpur), Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand in the other backward classes (OBC) category.
There are more than 90 million Jats in these nine states and can influence the outcome in at least 30 Lok Sabha constituencies.
The case now comes up for hearing on April 9 when the court will take up the petitioner’s plea for a stay. The next day, Jat-dominated western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana go to the polls.
OBC Reservation Raksha Samiti, an organisation of members of the communities listed as backward classes, and three Delhi residents, all of them OBCs, have challenged the March 4 notification and demanded it be scrapped.
Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate KK Venugopal alleged it was an “outrageous notification” issued in haste with “vote bank” in mind.
The Jats, who were better off than other OBCs, would take away seats and posts in schools, colleges and government jobs from other communities, he said. The community was well-represented in all fields including politics, cinema, academics, judiciary and the army, he said.
Aviation minister and Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh, whose party is a UPA partner and has a strong presence in western UP, had pushed for reservation.
Four days before the cabinet gave its all-clear, the National Commission for Backward Classes in a report to the government had opposed the move, saying Jats were “not socially and educationally backward communities” in the nine states.
The apex court, which issued a notice to the ministry of social justice and empowerment and will examine the records on April 9, has also sought the assistance of country’s top law officer, Attorney General GE Vahanvati.