Jharkhand governor sends back Soren govt’s local domicile bill | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Jharkhand governor sends back Soren govt’s local domicile bill

Jan 30, 2023 12:05 AM IST

Jharkhand governor returned the Bill back to the government for reconsideration, underlining that the government needs to review its legality and frame it as per constitutional norms and court rulings.

RANCHI Jharkhand governor Ramesh Bais on Sunday sent back a legislation approved by the assembly that defines the state’s local residents on the basis of land survey records of 1932 to the Hemant Soren government for reconsideration, saying it violates Article 16 of the Indian Constitution that provides freedom to employment, a development that could increase friction between the elected government and the constitutional head of the state.

CM Hemant Soren with governor Ramesh Bais (Somnath Sen)
CM Hemant Soren with governor Ramesh Bais (Somnath Sen)

The Jharkhand government had at a special assembly session on November 11 last year passed the “Jharkhand definition of local persons and for extending the consequential, social, cultural and other benefits to such local persons Bill, 2022”, popularly known as 1932 Khatiyan Bill.

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Only those who have their names, or that of their ancestors, in the khatiyan (land records) of 1932 or before will be considered as a local inhabitant of Jharkhand and only they would be entitled for grade 3 and 4 government jobs in the state, the draft legislation had proposed.

According to the bill provisions, the new law would come into effect only after the Centre included it in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution. A law in the Ninth Schedule is shielded from judicial review. The state government had sent the bill to the Raj Bhawan for its assent and for forwarding it to the Centre for its inclusion in the Ninth Schedule.

Bais, however, returned the Bill back to the government for reconsideration, underlining that the government needs to review its legality and frame it as per constitutional norms and court rulings.

“During review of the bill, it has been established that Article 16 (of the Constitution) guarantees equal rights to all in matters of employment. Article 16 (3) of the Constitution empowers only the Parliament to frame laws on matters of employment and under Article 35 (A) only it can impose any restriction or provide reservation for the same. This power is not bestowed on any legislative assembly. In Narsimha Rao & Others Vs State of Andhra Pradesh case, the Supreme Court had reiterated that only the Parliament has the power to introduce reservation in employment. Therefore, this bill violates constitutional provisions and is against SC rulings,” Raj Bhawan said in a statement.

“In Jharkhand, tribal areas fall under Schedule V (of the Constitution). A constitutional bench in the past had shot down the law to provide 100 percent jobs for the locals in the scheduled districts, terming even the power of the Governor to do so was violative of Article 16. In Satyajeet Kumar Vs State of Jharkhand case, the Supreme Court had ruled against reserving 100 percent jobs for locals in the scheduled districts,” it added.

Substantiating his arguments for returning the Bill, the governor also underlined the objections raised by the state law department against the Bill. “The provisions of the bills would violate the fundamental rights enshrined in Article 14,15 and 16(2) of the constitution. It would also be violative of Article 13 and generate unnecessary controversy,” the statement said, citing the law department’s observations.

The development is set to further strain the relationship between the state government and the Raj Bhawan, which has already led to confrontations over a host of issues in the past few months, especially over the delay in decision of the governor on the recommendation of the Election Commission of India over the controversy surrounding a mining lease given to the chief minister.

The 1932 Khatiyan Bill has been described as a political game-changer in the upcoming elections by the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. Chief minister Soren has been on Khatiyan Johar Yatrasince last month, touring every district to showcase his government’s achievements.

Reacting to the development, JMM principal general secretary Supriyo Bhhattacharya said, “We would speak on it after discussion with the party leadership.”

Though the opposition BJP and its ally All Jharkhand Students Union had supported the Bill in the assembly, they have described the move of the state government as tactic to divert attention from its failures as the Bill won’t stand legal scrutiny.

Jharkhand chief secretary Sukhdev Singh refused to comment on the development.

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    Vishal Kant works as an Assistant Editor with Hindustan Times. He tracks developments in Aam Aadmi Party and Delhi government. Vishal has spent about a decade covering the city politics and governance, besides writing on Delhi’s civic issues, urban transport and infrastructure.

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