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SC order on SC/ST quota creates political uproar; Govt says will take 'appropriate steps'

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

A huge row broke out both inside and outside parliament on Monday over the Supreme Court ruling on reservation in jobs for the SC/ST with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleging that it was "in the DNA of the BJP and the RSS" to try and erase the quota system, while the government said "appropriate steps" will be taken in the matter that was being discussed at the "highest level".

The political storm was caused after the apex court recently ruled that the states are not bound to provide reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in appointments and there is no fundamental right to claim quota in promotions.

Under attack over the issue, the government accused the Congress of "politicising the sensitive issue" while the LJP, an NDA constituent, said the Centre should immediately interfere in the matter and put the subject of quota in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution so that no one moves the apex court on these issues.

Amidst the opposition attack, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot during his statement in both the Houses of Parliament made it clear that the Centre was not asked to file an affidavit in the matter, and said the issue is being discussed in the government at the "highest level" and it will take "appropriate steps" in the matter.

Using the SC order to attack the Modi government, Gandhi alleged that it was "in the DNA of the BJP and the RSS to try to erase reservations" and that a "big conspiracy" was underway to take away the rights of deprived sections.

Gandhi also told reporters outside Parliament that the Congress will not allow reservation to be done away with,"no matter how much (Prime Minister) Modi Ji or (RSS chief) Mohan Bhagwat dream of it."

As soon as the Question Hour started, opposition members led by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury sought to raise the issue in Lok Sabha. He was also joined by members from other parties, including the DMK.

Hitting back at the opposition, the government said the Congress is trying to politicise a sensitive issue. "This is my charge that the Congress is politicising the sensitive issue," Defence Minister and deputy leader of the House Rajnath Singh said.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi urged Speaker Om Birla to expunge remarks made by opposition members against the government. Birla said he would look into the issue.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said that in 2012 there was a Congress government in Uttarakhand and they took a decision on the matter.

"In the matter, the central government has no role. Our government is committed for reservation," Meghwal said.

Asserting that the court order and the behaviour of the Opposition over the matter is impacting a big population in the country, Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan said,I request the central government to strengthen the reservation system. We cannot even discuss the issue of ending reservation."

The Ninth Schedule of the Constitution is where the government parks laws which it thinks should be beyond judicial review. It bars the courts, including the Supreme Court, from striking down laws on the ground that it violates fundamental rights.

Rajiv Ranjan (BJP) said it is a "very sensitive" issue and the House has one view on it.

"No should happen on this matter," he said adding the government has taken several steps for the community.

Other opposition leaders who expressed their concern over the SC order, included Supriya Sule (NCP), Kalyan Banerjee (TMC), Ritesh Pandey (BSP), Anupriya Patel (Apna Dal),E T Mohammed Basheer (IUML) and CPI (M) member A M Ariff.

Similar scenes were witnessed in Rajya Sabha where Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and other members demanded that the government file a review petition in the SC, and walked out of the House over its "unsatisfactory" response.

During his statement, Gehlot said the top court order pertains to a 2012 decision of the previous Congress government in Uttarakhand and asserted that the central government is "committed" and "dedicated" to reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs.

"There was Congress Party government in Uttarakhand in 2012. Our government is dedicated and committed for the welfare of SCs, STs and other backward castes... Since it is an important subject, the government is considering it at the highest level," the minister said.

Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale said the apex court's decision was "unjust" and the reservation subject should be brought under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.

It is a "serious" issue and the entire country is concerned about it, LJP leader and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said.

"There is no need to worry. The Modi government will protect and will do whatever best possible to protect the interest of SCs and STs," Paswan, a dalit leader, said.

Later, the Congress accused Gehlot of misleading Lok Sabha on the issue, and said it would move a privilege motion against him.

The Congress also said it would stage protests and agitations at district level on the issue in the coming weeks to "expose" the Modi government's "conspiracy to end reservation" for STs/SCs and and Other Backward Classes.

Congress general secretary (Organisation) KC Venugopal said it is a clear agenda of the BJP to curtail reservation for SCs/STs and backwards and alleged that the RSS has been "sabotaging" reservation to these oppressed sections for years.

"The minister has misled the House. The Congress party has decided to move a privilege motion against the minister, he told reporters.

Meanwhile, DMK President M K Stalin alleged that the policy of providing reservation was facing peril ever since the BJP assumed office at the Centre.

In a Facebook post, Stalin urged the Centre to take appropriate steps to ensure that reservation for OBCs, SCs and STs was protected and social justice upheld.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also attacked the BJP over the apex court order and alleged that the ruling party was weakening the equal rights given to Dalits and tribals by the Constitution.

The Congress has also slammed the BJP government in Uttarakhand for contending in the case in the apex court that there was no fundamental right to claim reservation in appointments or promotions in public posts, and that there was no constitutional duty on the part of the state governments to provide reservations.

"Understand the BJP's bid of ending reservation -- 1. RSS people consistently make statements against reservation. 2. The BJP government of Uttarakhand makes an appeal in the Supreme Court to abolish the fundamental right to reservation. 3. Uttar Pradesh government also immediately starts tampering with the rules of reservation," Priyanka Gandhi said in a tweet. "The BJP first tried to weaken the law against atrocities on Dalits and tribals. Now it is trying to weaken equal rights given to them by the Constitution and Babasaheb (Ambedkar)," she added.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, February 10 2020. 20:34 IST