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Ninth Schedule again PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 01 April 2016 00:09
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Can govt get away with Jat reservation strategy?

Given how the Supreme Court junked the UPA’s poll-eve plan—and a petition by the NDA to review this last year—to include Jats in the central list of OBCs, it remains to be seen how it deals with the Haryana assembly passing legislation on Tuesday to include Jats and five other castes in the list of OBCs. In view of the SC’s previous rulings, this time around, the Haryana government has asked the Centre to include its law in the Ninth Schedule to the Constitution, brought in by Jawaharlal Nehru to keep certain legislation—such as those on land acquisition by the government—outside the purview of the judiciary.

The problem is that a lot has changed since the days of Nehru’s innovative solution to keep the courts away from the legislature’s business. In the Kesavananda Bharati case in 1973, a 13-judge SC bench ruled that while the legislature had the right to legislate, this did not extend to the right to emasculate or destroy the basic feature of the Constitution. In the IR Coelho case in 2007—popularly known as the Ninth Schedule case—the SC took this further and argued that if the purpose of inserting a law into the Ninth Schedule was to undo a judgment of the SC, this could be examined by the courts. In other words, the Haryana assembly law can still be challenged in the courts even if the Centre obliges, as is likely, by putting it under the protection of the Ninth Schedule. If it is argued that the Haryana law violates the right to equality, a basic feature of the Constitution, the law can be struck down; it can also be struck down for violating the ceiling to reservations put by the SC in the Indra Sawhney case.

While the judiciary will do what it has to, what is unfortunate is that the government continues to be wedded to casteist politics when the 2014 elections clearly demonstrated Narendra Modi’s promise of economic growth trumped the caste-based politics of the past. While Lalu Prasad’s RJD got the same number (4) of seats as it got in 2009, Mulayam Singh’s SP got 5 versus 21 in 2009 and Mayawati got 0 versus 21—even Nitish Kumar, who worked more for development than concentrated on caste politics, got all but wiped out with just 2 seats versus 19 in 2009. And in a country with a big youth-bulge, the CSDS-Lokniti post-election polls for CNN-IBN found that, among the 18-22 year olds polled, the NDA got 45% of votes versus a mere 21% for the UPA; for those above 56, the NDA got 38% versus 27% for the Congress. When it came to voting by different castes, 55% of upper castes preferred Modi over 11% for Rahul Gandhi; it was 38% to 13% for upper OBCs, 46% to 11% for lower OBCs (Modi’s caste), 35% to 18% for the STs and 29% to 14% for the SCs—in other words, even those benefiting from reservations voted for Modi’s promise of economic growth. Is Modi’s change of heart an implicit recognition that he has failed to deliver growth and jobs, and that doing so will take a long time?

 

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