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SC ruling on SC/ST quota rocks Parliament, govt. says committed to reservation

By PTI Updated: Feb 10, 2020 10:53 pm

New Delhi, Feb. 10 (PTI): The government on Monday asserted in Parliament that it is “committed” to reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs and promised “appropriate steps” after the Opposition raised the Supreme Court ruling in the Uttarakhand case and accused the Centre of “failing” to defend the quota system.

Opposition members tried to corner the government in both the Houses over the Supreme Court decision that states are not bound to provide reserved seats for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Class in appointments and promotions.

But the government made it clear that it was never a party to the case which is related to a 2012 order of the previous Congress Government in Uttarakhand and accused the opposition party of politicising the issue.

Besides opposition members, several MPs from the ruling NDA also underscored their objections to the apex court’s decision, prompting interventions from a number of Union ministers including Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

“This is my charge that the Congress is politicising the sensitive issue,” Singh, who is deputy leader of the House, said.

Making almost identical statements in both the Houses, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot said the court order pertains to a 2012 decision of the then Congress government in Uttarakhand.

The Centre, he added, was neither a party to the case nor was it asked to file an affidavit, and hence it cannot be blamed for the development.

The central government is “committed” and “dedicated” to reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs, he said, adding that the issue is being discussed in the government at the “highest level” and it will take “appropriate steps” in the matter.

In Rajya Sabha, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and other members demanded that a review petition be filed by the Centre.

Dissatisfied with the minister’s response, opposition members in both the Houses walked out.

Earlier, Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale said in Rajya Sabha that the apex court’s decision was “unjust” and the reservation subject should be brought under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.

It is a “serious” issue and the entire country is concerned about it, NDA ally LJP and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said in the upper house.

He said the reservation issue should be brought under the Ninth Schedule of Constitution and pitched for reservation for the community in judiciary also.

As soon as the Question Hour started, Opposition members in Lok Sabha led by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury sought to raise the issue. He was also joined by members from other parties, including the DMK.

However, Speaker Om Birla told them that the matter can be raised during the Zero Hour, saying that the Question Hour was “important”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met senior ministers this morning in his Parliament House office. Though such meetings are routine during Parliament sessions, Monday’s meet assumes importance in the backdrop of the court ruling. There, however, was no official word on it.

The Supreme Court has ruled that there is no fundamental right to claim reservation in promotion for SCs, STs and OBCs in government jobs.

In the lower house, Congress leader Chowdhury and Kalyan Banerjee (TMC) targeted the government, saying there has been an onslaught on SC and ST reservation since the Modi government came to power.

Chirag Paswan of LJP, an NDA constituent, said the government should immediately interfere in the matter and put the reservation subject in the Ninth Schedule so that no one approaches the Supreme Court on these issues.

There is a view that issues in the Ninth schedule are ring-fenced from judicial review.

He said the order of the court and the behaviour of opposition on the matter is impacting a big population of the country.

Kalyan Banerjee (TMC) said the Constitution provides that reservation is a constitutional and fundamental right.

After the minister’s statement in Rajya Sabha, Azad said it is a serious issue as it concerns about one-fourth of the country’s population. “Immediately, a cabinet meeting should be called and take a decision to file a review petition,” he said.

Members of DMK, TRS and Left parties urged the government to review the matter.

When the minister rose to respond to the queries, he repeatedly said the government is considering the matter and will take appropriate step after due discussion.

Unsatisfied with the reply, the Opposition parties barring the Shiv Sena walked out of the upper house.

After they walked out, senior BJP leader Bhupinder Yadav said the reservation system is safe and that the House should work with unity.

By PTI Updated: Feb 10, 2020 10:53:58 pm