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Quota ball back in Raje court

Centre cites Constitution, Maharashtra model to turn down Rajasthan CM's appeal on the Gujjar quota issue, reports Nagendar Sharma.
Hindustan Times | By Nagendar Sharma, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 03, 2008 02:17 AM IST

The Centre on Monday refused to bail out the Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan from the Gujjar quota issue, with the Union Law Ministry saying it was for the state to decide whether it wanted to provide reservation to a community or not.

“The opinion has been sent to the Home Ministry, which wanted to know what the legal position on the issue was,” a senior Law Ministry official said. “The Constitution provides for reservation to communities based on clearly laid out criteria, but the decision has to be taken by the state governments.”

The ministry’s opinion comes as a setback to the Rajasthan government which had lobbed the ball in the Centre’s court after the fresh round of Gujjar agitation demanding Scheduled Tribe status, led to the killing of 43 people in police firing last month.

Faced with all-round criticism and under pressure from the BJP central leadership to bring the situation under control, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week had demanded “4 to 6 per cent reservation for Gujjars in the category of denotified class of tribals/nomadic tribe”.

Rajasthan Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rajinder Singh Rathore said the CM had left it to the Centre to decide under which category the Gujjars could be provided reservation “as this was a sensitive issue and required a proper central legislation applicable to the entire country”.

However, the state failed to convince the Centre as the Law Ministry officials wanted complete data and justification for the demand behind seeking quota for the Gujjars.

Citing the example of reservation benefits extended to tribals in Maharashtra, the Law Ministry’s opinion also pointed towards Article 16 of the Constitution, which states:

“Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State”.

The Law Ministry’s opinion effectively sends the matter back to the state government, which will have to find a fresh solution to the crisis it has been battling for over two years now.

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