New Delhi (IANS): Disagreeing with the central government’s view that Jats are a backward community, the Supreme Court on Tuesday quashed the March 4, 2014, notification by the then UPA government extending reservation to community members in nine states.
A bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman said: “We cannot agree with the view taken by the union government that Jats in the nine states in question are a backward community so as to be entitled to inclusion in the Central List of Other Backward Classes.”
“Inclusion of politically organised class such as Jats… can’t be affirmed,” said Justice Gogoi, pronouncing the judgment.
While the UPA government extended reservation benefits in education and government employment to the Jat community, ignoring the recommendation of the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) to the contrary, the decision was also endorsed by the Narendra Modi government, which brushed aside the suggestion that it was rooted in electoral exigencies of the previous government.
On determination of backwardness, the court said “the gates would be opened only to permit entry of the most distressed. Any other inclusion would be a serious abdication of the constitutional duty of the state”.
Holding the March 4, 2014 notification as not justified, the court said: “The view taken by the NCBC to the contrary is adequately supported by good and acceptable reasons which furnished a sound and reasonable basis for further consequential action on the part of the union government.”
“Accordingly… the aforesaid notification… including the Jats in the Central List of Other Backward Classes for the states of Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, NCT of Delhi, Bharatpur and Dholpur districts of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand is set aside and quashed.”
The court decision came while deciding a batch of petitions challenging the notification.
Pointing out that the date on which the exercise of extending reservation is undertaken “has to be contemporaneous”, the court said that most of the data, except in the case of Haryana, was at least a decade old and hauled up the government for “negative governance”.
Jat community leaders and other political figures reacted to the court’s decision immediately given the high political stakes involved with the Jat community votes in various states.
Leaders in Haryana, where Jats are the politically dominant community and account for nearly 25 percent of the state’s population, treaded cautiously after the apex court order, saying they would first examine the apex court judgment before making any observation.
“Our government (in Haryana) will examine the Supreme Court decision. Only then we will be able to say something,” said Finance Minister Captain Abhimanyu, who presented his maiden budget in the assembly on Tuesday.
He said the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) believed in allowing reservation for those who were socially and economically lagging.
Haryana BJP president Subhash Barala said he would comment only after studying the court order.
Jat leaders in Rajasthan, where the community accounts for 14-15 percent of the state’s population, expressed shock on Tuesday after the order.
“We are shocked. Though I have not gone through the judgment, Jats are synonymous with farmers and I feel farmers are backward and deserve to get reservation,” said prominent Jat leader Gyanparakash Pilania.
“I think the case most probably has not been put forward in the proper way before the Supreme Court,” added Pilania, a former director general of the Rajasthan Police.
“It is the duty of the central government to file a review petition,” he said.
Jats are classified as OBCs in Rajasthan.
Congress leader Rameshwar Dudi, leader of opposition in the assembly, insisted that Jats were “really backward” in Rajasthan.
“They deserve to get reservation. I am strongly of the opinion that the central government should file a review petition at the earliest,” he said.
Echoing similar views, Rajaram Meel, another Jat leader, said: “The governments, both at the entre and in the state, are with us, and we hope the community will soon get the OBC status it deserves.”
In neighbouring Punjab, the Punjab Jatt (as Jats are called in the state and where they are a land-owning class) Mahasabha on Tuesday said it would soon file a revision petition in the Supreme Court against the verdict.
Mahasabha president Kushaldeep Dhillon said legal options would be explored to defend the case, and blasted the Narendra Modi government at the Centre for “deliberately weakening the case” in the court.
“The true facts were not presented and the case was fought with malafide intentions,” he alleged.