New Delhi: The Supreme Court today set aside the notification issued by the erstwhile UPA government to include Jats in the Central list of Other Backward Classes (OBC) for according benefits of reservation to them.
“We set aside the notification to implement Jats in the Central list of Other Backward Classes (OBC),” a bench of Justice Tarun Gogoi and Justice R F Nariman said.
The bench also found fault with the Centre’s decision to overlook the findings of the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) stating that Jats do not deserve to be included in the Central list of OBC as they don’t form socio-economic backward class.
“Caste, though a prominent factor, cannot be the sole factor of determining the backwardness of a class,” the bench said, while referring to the historic judgement rendered by a larger bench on the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations on OBC reservations.
The bench also said the “possible wrong inclusion of a class in the past cannot be a basis for the further wrong inclusion.”
It also said that the inclusion of politically organised class like Jat would adversely impact the welfare of the other backward classes.
The bench said though the Union of India is empowered under the constitutional scheme to provide reservation to a particular class but it cannot be permitted to do so on the basis of a decade-old-finding about the backwardness of a caste.
The decision came on a PIL filed by the OBC Reservation Raksha Samiti – an organisation of members of communities that are included in the Central List of Backward Classes.
The PIL had alleged that the March 4 notification was issued by the then central government a day before the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) for the Lok Sabha elections came into force to help the ruling party garner votes.
On 1 April, the apex court had asked the Centre why it allegedly ignored the advice of the NCBC to keep the Jat community away from reservation benefits. The court had also said that the matter was “serious” and had directed the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to place before it all the material, records and files pertaining to the decision, to see “whether there was application of mind or not” while issuing the 4 March notification.
The Narendra Modi government had earlier supported the UPA regime’s decision to include the Jat community in the Central OBC list for providing reservation and refuted the allegation in the Supreme Court that it was done to gain political mileage in the general elections.
“As regards averments that the central government with a motive to gain benefit for the ruling parties in the forthcoming general election issued the said notification, this fact is denied as unfounded. It is respectfully submitted that the central government has acted bonafide and in public interest,” the government said in a 28-page affidavit.
The Centre had contended at the time that that the Cabinet took into account the findings of a report of Expert Committee constituted by Indian Council for Social Science and Research (ICSSR) before taking the decision.
It said that government rejected the view of National Commission for Backward Classes and took the decision on the basis of findings of the expert committee. Centre also said that nine states have already included Jats in their lists of OBCs.
“Cabinet was of the view that the Commission has not adequately taken into account the ground realities and therefore decided not to accept the advice tendered by the Commission and decided to include Jat community in the Central List of OBCs for the nine states namely Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan(Bharatpur and Dhaulpur), Uttrakhand, UP and Delhi,” it said.
The apex court had on 9 April rejected a plea to stay Centre’s poll-eve notification to include the Jat community.
Violence over reservations for the Jat community had resulted in the army being called out to maintain peace in 2012.
with inputs from PTI