Teacher quota: a wrong righted

Police personal try to stop the members of West Bengal Teachers cell during their protest against state government in Kolkata on July 7, 2019. PTI

The passage by Parliament of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Bill has corrected a wrong application of the reservation principle in the appointment of teachers in central universities and colleges. The bill has replaced an ordinance promulgated by the government in March to nullify the effect of a Supreme Court ruling and an Allahabad High Court judgment of 2017 on reservations. It has restored the earlier system of reservation which had treated an institution or a university as a single unit for appointment of teachers from the reserved category representing the Scheduled, Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes. This system of reservation, called the 200 point roster system, was replaced with a 13-point roster system on the basis of the Allahabad High Court’s 2017 ruling. The Supreme Court upheld the high court order and rejected review petitions against its ruling this year, necessitating a law to restore the old system. 

In the 200 point roster system, 99 out of 200 posts of teachers in a university, taken as a single unit, were reserved for SCs, STs, and OBCs. The deficit in the reserved quota in one department was made up by appointments in other departments, so that the overall reservation quota was not affected. But in the 13 point system, only one out of 13 posts in a department was set apart for the reserved categories and this would have meant fewer recruitments and longer gaps between appointments in a particular department. The total quota of reserved seats in the university would often remain unfilled. The argument against the earlier system was that it would have resulted in some departments having only teachers from the reserved category and others going without any teachers from the category. This was, at worst, an anomaly but the system that replaced it amounted to denial of the constitutional right of reservation for the eligible categories. In the choice between an anomaly and injustice, the former is to be preferred. 

Reservation norms and procedures have sometimes been misinterpreted and wrongly implemented. It is important to ensure that the entitlements of the deprived classes are not denied to them by mistake or through technical arguments. The University Grants Commission (UGC) had actually issued a notification in accordance with the Allahabad High Court judgment, but the countrywide protests by SC, ST and OBC groups forced the government to bring forward an ordinance and now the bill to negate the rulings. In Parliament, all parties supported the bill, though some wanted it to be referred to a standing committee. There was no disagreement over the need for the bill. 

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