Congress pointed out legal hurdles in implementing the bill. BJP said that it will convince the Center to amend the Constitution.
The Karnataka Legislative Assembly, on Monday, 26 December, unanimously passed a bill to hike the reservation quota by six percent for Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) in educational institutions and government jobs.
While introducing the bill in the Assembly, the Basavaraj Bommai-led Karnataka government assured that it would appeal to the Union Government to include the proposed legislation in the 9th Scheduled of the Constitution to ensure legal protection.
The Karnataka Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and of Appointments or Posts in Services under the State) Bill, 2022, will be forwarded to the Legislative Council for its consent.
Under this bill, the reservation quota for SCs will increase to 17 percent from 15 percent and for STs to seven percent from three percent.
“The government took the risk in promulgating the ordinance even after knowing that the 50 percent reservation ceiling in the state,” Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs JC Madhuswamy said after the bill was passed:
“There was also severe pressure on the government for the implementation of the Nagamohan Das and Subhash Adi commission reports, which have recommended a quota hike of SC/ST communities,” he told the House.
The minister also pointed out that initially there were only six castes under the SC category. “The number of SCs has now gone to 101. Several of these castes fall under the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and other categories in other states. There are also 53 different castes included in ST.”
“We are not giving reservation hike for SC/ST on sympathy. It is their right. We will ensure that this bill is included in the 9th Schedule,” Madhuswamy added.
In 2019, the HD Kumaraswamy-led government in Karnataka had set-up Justice HN Nagamohan Das Commission to conduct a comprehensive study on the socio-economic status of the SCs and STs in the state.
The committee submitted a detailed report in July 2020. Besides pointing out the social and educational backwardness of SC/STs, the Nagamohan Das committee also recommended an increase in reservation quota for them.
Though the Congress extended its full support to pass the bill, it pointed out several legal hurdles that the government would have to face while implementing the bill.
Calling for an amendment to the Constitution, Opposition Leader Siddaramaiah said: “This bill will not be valid until the Constitution is amended. The state government must approach the Union Government to make the necessary amendments for the effective implementation of this bill.”
“We are with the state government on its decision to provide a six percent quota hike for SCs and STs. If necessary, an all-party delegation has to be taken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to appeal for an amendment to the Constitution,” Siddaramaiah opined.
Increasing the reservation in the current state will be a violation of the Supreme Court judgement.
The only way to increase the reservation is through an amendment to the 9th schedule of the Constitution.#SocialJustice
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) December 26, 2022
Stating that this bill would take the overall reservation to 56 percent, Siddaramaiah pointed out: “In the 1992 Indira Sawhney case, the Supreme Court has capped the reservation at 50 percent. It is the apex court that has capped the reservation, not the Constitution.”
“The Union government has also announced a 10 percent reservation for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) recently. This will breach the 50 percent reservation ceiling,” Siddaramaiah added.
Congress leaders came heavily on the government for not sending a proposal to the Union government even weeks after bringing the ordinance on SC/ST reservation.
“In the winter session of Parliament, the Union government has replied to questions of parliamentarians that there is no proposal before the government to hike the quota,” Siddaramaiah pointed out.
“The state government claims that it is hiking the quota for SCs and STs but the Union government has said that there is a proposal to increase it. This shows the commitment of the BJP government to hiking the quota. With the Assembly polls nearing, it should not be an eyewash,” the Opposition Leader said.
Responding, Minister for Transport and Tribal Welfare B Sriramulu said: “Those questions in Parliamentabouttaining to SC/STs. The apex court has nowhere said that the reservation quota should not exceed 50 percent.”
KPCC general secretary and Byatarayanapura MLA Krishna Byre Gowda said: “The BJP government is making false promises to SC/ST communities. It is not committed to implementing the bill.”
“If the BJP government has a genuine concern for SC/STs, I appeal to the Union government to make a statement either in Parliament or outside that it supports Karnataka government’s proposal and implement the bill at the earliest,” he demanded.
Replying to the MLA, Madhuswamy pointed out: “Even after adding it to the 9th Schedule will not assure complete legal protection. The court can question us (the government).”
Citing the Tamil Nadu government hiking the quota over 50 percent, Madhuswamy said: “The Tamil Nadu government might have increased the reservation to 69 percent but it is under litigation. The only solution is to bring it under the 9th Schedule.”
Byre Gowda pointed out that though it is under litigation in Tamil Nadu the government has been allowed to increase the quota above 50 percent.
“As per the 2017 Supreme Court order, even after including it in the 9th Schedule, it will be subjected to judicial scrutiny. However, the court has not struck down the 9th Schedule,” the Congress MLA pointed out.
Commenting on the demand to hike the reservation quota for various communities, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai told reporters in New Delhi that several communities have been agitating for reservation. “We will take everyone into confidence and chair an all-party meeting before taking a final call.”
ರಾಜ್ಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮೀಸಲಾತಿಗಾಗಿ ಹಲವಾರು ಸಮುದಾಯಗಳು ಹೋರಾಟ ನಡೆಸುತ್ತಿವೆ. ಈ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಕೆಲವು ಅಂತಿಮ ವರದಿಗಳು ಸಹ ಬಂದಿವೆ. ಈ ನಿಟ್ಟಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಎಲ್ಲರನ್ನೂ ವಿಶ್ವಾಸಕ್ಕೆ ತೆಗೆದುಕೊಂಡು, ಸರ್ವ ಪಕ್ಷ ಸಭೆ ನಡೆಸಿ ಮುಂದಿನ ತೀರ್ಮಾನವನ್ನು ಕೈಗೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತೇವೆ.
— Basavaraj S Bommai (@BSBommai) December 27, 2022
“The government’s stand is to provide justice to the backward class communities without disturbing the communities that are now availing the reservation. We should approach the issue scientifically,” he stated.
While Law Minister Madhuswamy was presenting the bill, Congress and JD(S) leaders demanded the state government implement the reservation in the private sector also.
“When it comes to employment, there is only two percent of jobs in the government and the remaining 98 percent in the private sector. This quota hike will not benefit much for government jobs. So, the reservation should also be implemented in the private sector,” Siddaramaiah and JD(S) MLA K M Shivalinge Gowda appealed.
Madhuswamy said that the state government will consider the demand while framing rules.