No need for Amendment, Centre tells Rajasthan

Anita Joshua

NEW DELHI: The Centre has turned down the Rajasthan government’s demand for a Constitutional Amendment to provide reservation for Gujjars outside the existing three categories as this power already rests with State governments.

According to the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, State governments were empowered — in very exceptional situations — by the Constitution to make a separate provision for reservation outside the existing categories of Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

Acting on legal advice, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs P.R. Kyndiah on Friday sent a letter to Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje stating that “since constitutional provisions already exist which empower the States to make special provisions for categories other than SCs, STs and OBCs, no amendment to the Constitution for this purpose is necessary or feasible.”

‘Will upset Constitutional balance’

A Constitutional Amendment, he added, will “upset the delicate Constitutional balance well settled by a catena of Supreme Court decisions on the subject of reservation.”

The Centre’s position was that provisions of Article 16, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, enabled States to make provisions for reservation to nomadic and denotified tribes other than SCs, STs and OBCs if the situation demanded.

The letter also pointed out that some States had already enacted their own laws using this window of opportunity. One such State is neighbouring Maharashtra. Communities granted quota under this provision can get the benefits of reservation only in State institutions and not in the Central pool.

Mr. Kyndiah’s letter was sent out after the Prime Minister referred to his Ministry two letters of Ms. Raje seeking a Constitutional Amendment to make separate provisions for reservation of Gujjars and a couple of other communities by treating them as a separate category akin to nomadic tribes and providing them four-to-six per cent reservation without affecting the existing percentage of quota for SCs, STs and OBCs.

While the Prime Minister received two such letters in quick succession from the Chief Minister in the last week of May as the Gujjar agitation gained momentum, the Rajasthan government had made a similar demand in January also.

As for the Gujjar demand for ST status, the Centre’s position was that while reservation could be granted under Article 16 (1), the decision had to be taken by the State government and backed by sufficient data on social status and justification for extending quota to the community in question. Thereafter, the State government’s recommendation along with supporting evidence would be examined by the Registrar-General of India and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.

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