Government defends UPA decision to extend OBC reservation to Jats

Government defends UPA decision to extend OBC reservation to Jats

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government Thursday stood by the previous UPA regime's decision to extend reservation, under the other backward class (OBC) category, to Jats in nine states.

Supporting the decision taken just before the April-May Lok Sabha election, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman that though the decision was taken by the previous government, the present government is backing it as it is in public interest.

Addressing the queries from the bench, Rohatgi said the Jats were added in the list of OBCs based on the material prepared by the sub-committee of the Indian Council for Social Sciences Research (ICSSR).

The government by March 7 notification included the Jat community in the central list of OBCs in Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan (Bharatpur and Dholpur districts), Uttarakhand, Uttar Prardesh and Delhi.

Rohatgi said the "propriety, reasonableness and sufficiency of the material relied upon for extending reservation to Jats could not be examined" unless it was "wholly arbitrary and unreasonable".

"If I (government) have a mandate to do a thing and have wherewithal to do a thing, then I don't need a body (NCBC) or crutches to do that thing," he told the court while rejecting the plea by OBC Reservation Raksha Samiti and others, who oppose the decision, contending that government should have gone by the report of the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) which had held that Jats were not backward.

The UPA government December 2013 had asked the NCBC's recommendations on extending OBC reservation to Jats.

Rohatgi told the court that central goverment had to go by the list of the backward classes prepared by states, the basic units in the federal structure, as it did not have independent means to ascertain the backward status of different communities.

As the court asked why the central government was not following the states in such matters, Rohatgi responded that the "kitty of reservation (in jobs and education) is very small and there are 8,000 castes in the lists of different states" thus "it is for the centre to exercise and examine which is better to be included in the list of OBC reservation".

Referring to the petitioner's plea seeking declaration that Jats are not backward, Rohatgi said that in such a situation the status of Jats as backward in nine states would also go and this would happen in a situation when these states are not before the court to defend their respective position.

At this, the court said: "If we quash the notification extending OBC reservation to Jats (in the central government jobs and education). then we will bear it in mind."

Rohatgi said that if Jats are treated as backward in nine states and not by the centre, then it would create an incongruous situation where a Jat could get a peon's job in the state government under OBC reservation but couldn't become a postman under the central government.

An affidavit by the Modi government Aug 11 had maintained: "As regards the averments that the central government with a motive to gain benefit for the ruling political parties in the forthcoming general election issued the said notification, this fact is denied as unfounded", said the Centre's affidavit filed in the apex court today.

The government had filed the affidavit in response to court's April 9 order, where the court, declining to stay the central government's decision, had sought its response to a plea challenging the move.

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