Petitions in Rajasthan high court challenge quota to Gujjars
Two petitions have been filed in the Rajasthan high court challenging the bill granting 5% reservation in educational institutions and jobs to Gujjars and four other communities on the ground that it breaches the Supreme Court-mandated 50% ceiling on caste-based quotas.
The Rajasthan Assembly had passed the Rajasthan Backward Classes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions in the State and of Appointments and Posts in Services under the State) (Amendment) Bill, 2019, on February 13 this year. It provided Gujjars and four other communities 5% reservation after increasing the other backward classes (OBC) quota from 21% to 26%. When the bill was being passed, deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot said the assembly had passed a resolution requesting the Centre to make necessary amendments to the Constitution to protect it from legal scrutiny. On Wednesday, two petitioners – Arvind Sharma and Badal Verma – challenged the bill, saying reservation beyond the 50% limit was unconstitutional.
“The state government has stated that reservation is under pressing need for uplift of these communities while the actual pressing circumstance was the ongoing reservation agitation by Gujjars,” said their counsel Abhinav Sharma.
The Gujjars had blocked traffic for eight days on several national and state highways to press the reservation demand. Sharma said reservation was granted based on proportionality of the population of Gujjars and the four other communities and not on the quantifiable data of backwardness in education and public employment. The high court registry has listed hearing of their petitions next week, he said.
Tourism minister Vishvendra Singh said on Friday the state government would put forward its defence strongly in court. “When the 10% reservation (to economically backward classes) will not get stuck in court, how will the 5% reservation not pass the hurdle?” he asked.
In a related development, the Samta Andolan Samiti has issued legal notice to the Rajasthan chief secretary, personnel secretary, social justice and empowerment secretary and the law and legal affairs secretary, saying the bill was in contempt to the status quo order passed by the Supreme Court in an earlier case related to reservation for five communities, including the Gujjars.
Samta Andolan Samiti president PN Sharma’s advocate Shobhit Tiwari said the SC, in its order on November 13, 2017, had restrained the state government from breaching the 50% reservation ceiling in Rajasthan.
The Gujjars and other communities were given 5% reservation for the first time through the Special Backward Class (SBC) Act in 2015.