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BJP-JJP move to bifurcate SC quota unlikely to stand legal scrutiny

Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Hitender Rao
PUBLISHED ON JAN 31, 2020 10:59 PM IST

New Category: On the basis of apex court judgment, HC quashed subclassification of scheduled castes

Proposing bifurcation of 20% seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SC) in higher education institutions of Haryana, the council of ministers on Friday approved a draft bill allotting half of the seats to a new category: “Deprived Scheduled Castes”.

The proposed subclassification of reservation by way of the Haryana Scheduled Castes (Reservation in Admission in Educational Institutions) Bill, 2020, would be applicable for graduation and postgraduation-level courses in educational institutions maintained by the government or receiving aid out of the state funds. It would also include government and government-aided technical and professional institutions.

Legally untenable move in view of HC judgment

However, the move may not withstand legal scrutiny in view of the July 2006 orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court (HC) in a matter pertaining to subclassification of reservation for SCs by making two categories — Block A and Block B — for direct recruitment in government jobs.

The Haryana government had in November 1994 under the then CM Bhajan Lal ordered that for purpose of reservation in services, the SCs in Haryana will be put in two categories. “The Block B will consist of chamars, jatia chamars, rahgars, raigars, ramdasias or ravidasias, while Block A will comprise remaining 36 SCs…,” stated the November 9, 1994 notification. The 1994 notification was quashed by the Punjab and Haryana HC in July 2006. “We accordingly find that the present controversy is fully covered by the Supreme Court’s decision in EV Chinnaiah case. We accordingly quash the November 9, 1994 notification holding the same to be ultra vires of the Constitution,” the HC had said.

A five-member apex court bench in its order in Chinnaiah case had said the state cannot take away the benefit on the premise that one or the other group among the members of the Scheduled Castes has advanced and, thus, is not entitled to the entire benefit of reservation. The impugned legislation, thus, must be held to be unconstitutional, the apex court had said.

The state government had later filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court along with an application for grant of stay on the HC orders. However, the SLP was neither listed for hearing nor a stay was granted by the apex court.

The state government accordingly also modified instructions on March 19, 1999 regarding subclassification of SCs for admission in government as well as government aided/self-financing educational, professional, medical, engineering, technical institutions and colleges.

BJP-JJP govt’s justification

Approving the subclassification of SCs, the cabinet on Friday tried to justify the move by stating that the representation of Block-A SCs (now designated as “deprived scheduled castes”) in Group A, B and C jobs was only 4.7%, 4.14% and 6.27%, respectively, though they constitute about 11% of the state’s total population. As for Block-B SCs (who are also about 11% of the total population), the representation in Group A, B and C services is 11%, 11.31% and 11.8%, respectively.

An official spokesperson said it was informed in the meeting that the “deprived SCs” were not so educationally qualified as the data from SECC 2011 indicates that only 2.13% of their population is graduate, 3.78% senior secondary educated and 6.74% Class-10 pass. “About 33.63% of them are illiterate. This makes them a distinct class of citizens who are deprived of their constitutional right of equality due to lack of education. Therefore, it was decided to provide such reservation in admission to candidates belonging to deprived SCs,” he added.

The spokesperson said if the seats offered to the “deprived SCs” for admission in educational institutions were not filled up in any academic year due to non-availability of candidates, those seats after the display of the final list of such admissions will be made available for candidates of second category of the SCs. “If no candidate from either subcategory is available to fill one or more than one of the 20% seats, such seats will be filled from amongst the applicants of general category,” the spokesperson said.

Who constitute ‘Deprived scheduled castes’

“Deprived Scheduled Castes” included all those 36 castes which were earlier part of Block A.

These include ad dharmi, balmiki, bazigar, dhanak, khatik, mazhabi, mazhabi Sikh, od, sapela, sapera, sikriband, bhanjra, bawaria and barar among others.

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