Even as the UPA government on Thursday pushed forward a legislation to amend the Constitution for doing away with bottlenecks in promoting scheduled caste and scheduled tribe candidates in government jobs, principal Opposition BJP cautioned the government to ensure that the move did not boomerang and trigger a “reverse discrimination.”
The Constitution (117th Amendment) Bill, 2012, introduced in the Rajya Sabha on September 5, 2012, seeks to replace Article 16(4A), to provide “impediment free” reservation in promotion to SC/STs.
Initiating the debate on the bill, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said BJP was “fully committed to social justice” but reservation measures should not create a reverse discrimination.
“Reservation, which was originally conceived in the Constitution, is not intended to create that inequality but to make unequals equals. However, the principle to be kept in mind while using reservation as an affirmative action intended to remove discrimination is that affirmative action should not be so excessive that it results in reverse discrimination,” Jaitley said.
BSP supremo Mayawati, an ardent supporter of the bill, argued that SC/STs were a deprived lot and the amendment should have been brought earlier.
The bill that seeks to provide impediment-free reservation in promotion to SC/ST employees with retrospective effect from June 17, 1995 was moved by V Narayansamy, minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office, who said it would bring more “certainty and clarity” in the wake of a Supreme Court judgement that adversely affected the promotion prospects of SC-ST employees.
The Supreme Court, in an earlier judgement, upheld decisions of the High Courts of Rajasthan and Allahabad that struck down provisions for reservation in government services in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Agreeing with the concept of reservation in promotion, which is in vogue since 1955, the top court suggested applying three conditions before implementing quota in promotions: establishing the backwardness of the target population, ensuring efficiency in services is not hampered and inadequacy of representation. None of these conditions were allegedly fulfilled in Rajasthan and UP, resulting in litigation.
In the statement of objects and reasons of the bill, Narayansamy said there was difficulty in collection of quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment. Moving the motion, he said, “"Not even one SC/ST officer is there at the level of Secretary to Government of India. Therefore inadequacy of representation has been proved."
Jaitley, however, asked the government to change some words in the amendment so as to ensure efficiency in government services was not sacrificed and a cap is there on the number of candidates promoted using the quota route.
Asking the government not to overrule Article 335, which mandated efficiency, Jaitley said for SC/ST candidates there might be a relaxed standard but to say “no standards will apply”, as stated in the amendment, would be difficult to practise.
“I urge the minister to consider deleting a part of the amending Article 335 because the moment you overrule the Article, it will have two adverse consequences: Firstly, the efficiency of services will be adversely affected. Secondly, it will run the risk of being struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court,” the Leader of the Opposition said.
Participating in the debate, BSP leader Mayawati said, “An impression is being created that BSP is against reservation for other backward classes. This is false. We are in support of reservation for OBCs. But this bill is for SC/STs. If the government brings a separate bill for OBCs, we will support that.”