Aditi Tandon & Ravi Singh
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, February 10
Parliament today witnessed a political storm over the Supreme Court’s February 7 order on reservation in public posts with the government assuring both Houses of appropriate steps to address the matter.
After the Congress-led Opposition and NDA partners Lok Janshakti Party, Apna Dal and JD(U) contended that the SC order was anti-Dalit, Social Justice Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot informed the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha that the government was reviewing the judgment and would act appropriately. The government could either consider a review petition in the matter or a legislation. “This is a very important issue. We are conducting a high-level review. The Government of India was neither made a party to this case nor was its affidavit sought. The SC order emanates from a September 5, 2012, decision of the then Congress-led government of Uttarakhand to not grant reservation in promotions to SCs and STs.
Our government is committed to the welfare of the SCs and STs and will take appropriate steps in this matter,” Gehlot said as the Opposition walked out in the Rajya Sabha.
In the Lok Sabha, the NCP, TMC and the BSP didn’t join the Congress-led walkout though leaders of these parties decried the apex court order and sought government intervention to allay fears. The SC had ruled that state governments could not be directed to provide reservation for appointment in public posts and likewise states were not bound to have SC/ST reservation in promotions. In ruling so, the SC set aside a July 2019 Uttarakhand High Court judgment which directed the state government to collect data on SC/ST representation in public services and accordingly provide reservation in promotions. The HC order came in an appeal against a 2012 decision of the then Congress government of Uttarakhand which decided against reservation in promotions in public posts.
As the issue snowballed into a Congress-BJP slugfest, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh rued its politicisation. “I had urged everyone to wait for the minister’s statement on the matter. In 2012, the Congress government was at the helm in Uttarakhand. The way Congress is politicising such a sensitive issue is a very serious matter,” Rajnath said in the Lok Sabha after Congress MPs stormed the well shouting “Modi government shame-shame” slogans.
Earlier today, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP and the RSS of trying to erase reservation. Rahul contended that the incumbent BJP government of Uttarakhand was the one to appeal in the SC against the .2
HC order and the state’s counsels argued that reservation was not a fundamental right. “The RSS and the BJP cannot stand the idea that Dalits, tribals and OBCs have reservation. They have attempted to remove reservation. They demolished the Ravidas temple here. You saw what they did to the SC-ST sub-plan. Now they are arguing that reservation is not a fundamental right. It is in their DNA to try and erase reservations but no matter what their fantasies, we won’t let it happen,” Rahul said outside Parliament today.
The issue rocked both Houses, where Congress sought adjournment of proceedings to have a discussion. The matter ultimately came up in Zero Hour with NDA partners LJP, Apna Dal and JD(U) demanding a law under the Ninth Schedule to settle the quota debate forever.
Union MoS for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale (RPI) too pressed for the law after minister Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP) defended the government, saying that “the BJP government had brought a law to undo the SC’s dilution of the SCs/STs Prevention of Atrocities Act.” The Congress, meanwhile, threatened a privilege notice against Gehlot, saying that “he misled the House”. The party’s objection was to Gehlot’s allusion to the Congress’ 2012 link in the matter.
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